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Driving With Unrestrained Pets in the Car Can Be as Dangerous as Texting While Driving


There are many dangerous driving distractions, including texting or talking on the cell phone while driving. However, driving with pets in the car is rarely cited as a danger to safe driving. Nevertheless, unrestrained pets in the car can prove to be as dangerous as other driving distractions.

In a recent survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and Kurgo, a pet safety product company, 80% of pet owners reported that they drive with their pets in the car on a regular basis: to run errands, go to the pet store, take road trips, or go to work. But only 17% reported that they use a pet restraint system during car rides–which can be a danger to both the pets and the people in the car. If your pet is unrestrained during car rides, they are most likely wandering around while you are driving. This can be very distracting, since you are probably busy telling your pet to stop barking, scratching the seats, or to sit down while driving–all of which takes your focus off of the road, creating a hazard for yourself and for other drivers. In addition, if your pet is unrestrained during a car ride they are more likely to be thrown with violent force from the car if an accident were to occur, increasing the chances that they are needlessly killed when a restraint system would have kept them more secure.

In choosing a pet restraint system to use during car trips, consider the following tips:

  • Use safety barriers throughout the car: there are two different sets of barriers for your car. One fits in the opening between your trunk and your back seat. These are most often metal or plastic bars. The other type of barrier sits in between the front seats and back seats. Most often these are made of netting, strong fabric or plastic. The first type of barrier is primarily meant to keep your dog secure in their seat, especially in the case of sudden stops or an accident that could project them out of the windows of the car. The second type of barrier is primarily for the driver’s safety, to keep a pet from suddenly leaping onto your lap while you’re driving.
  • Match dog size to proper seatbelt restraint: dog seat belts are adjustable straps that keep your dog in place while the car is moving. Again, like safety barriers, dog seat belts keep dogs from hitting against the hard panes of the car doors or from destroying the seats if they are agitated. Most importantly, they give you the peace of mind that you need, knowing that your pet is safe and won’t damage the inside of your car. However, it is important to match the seatbelt to the size of your dog: they come in many different sizes and are only effective if they are the right size.
  • Doggy booster seats are also safe and comfortable: seat belts aren’t always the best option to keep your dog secure in the car, especially if you have a small breed dog. It is easy for smaller dogs to jostle around even when they are belted in with a dog seatbelt. Instead, booster seats provide your small dog with a comfortable seat and more security. However, booster seats are not a good option for larger dogs. Rather, stick with the dog seatbelt.
  • When using a carrier, secure properly:if you are going to use a carrier for your dog or cat, make sure that it is properly secured inside of the car so that it won’t fly around in the case of a collision. In addition, buy the right size carrier for your pet so that they feel comfortable in a large enough carrier, but aren’t jostling around in one that is too big.


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  1. Erik Wood says:
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    Really? I can understand how a rambunctious dog in a small car could be hazard but equating this to texting and driving trivializes the efforts to address a legitimate highway epidemic with what is arguably a driving anomaly. For every 6 seconds a driver spends texting, 4.6 of those seconds are with their eyes off the road, which makes texting the most dangerous cell phone activity anyone can engage in while operating a 5,000 pound piece of steel and glass. This activity produces 6,000 highway deaths a year and that number is rising.

    I decided to do something about it after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver last fall. Instead of an expensive shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool that is a simple app for smartphones – low cost, no recurring fees. Many national and local organizations are also fighting against texting and driving and I think the equation this article makes tends to erode their noble efforts

    Erik Wood, owner

  2. Mark Bello says:
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    Erik: You are right that texting and driving is dangerous; you are, in my humble opinion, wrong in not seeing the same danger with distractions caused by front seat pets. Either or both cause a driver to momentarily forget themselves; either or both can cause injury or death. Excusing one and not the other will not keep us safe. We must reduce and, hopefully, eliminate those things that distract drivers from their principal task, getting to where they are going safely, without being a menace to themselves and others they may encounter in their travels.

  3. Erik Wood says:
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    I understand your point and I agree with the validity of the concern. My only assertion was that this story is all over the newscycle and it does tend to dilute the efforts of those organizations who are fighting the text and drive epidemic – especially with teens. My only concern was that if you start comparing texting & driving directly and equally with: pets, putting on make up, fumbling with a CD player then it leads to an environment of complacency where people just throw up their hands. With regard to texting and driving – this is simply unacceptable. Schools are just days away from starting and I am getting tired of posting articles like this one to our blogs – http://bthnow.org/?p=109 – two or three TIMES A WEEK!

    I acknowledge the danger of driving with pets. Please, in return, acknowledge the unbalanced comparison.

    Thank you for the discussion…

    Erik Wood, owner

  4. Josh Wilson says:
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    Your sensitivity to protecting others has turned into action. “I built a tool that is a simple app for smartphones – low cost, no recurring fees.” One of the more useful app ideas I have heard. Thanks for your comments as well Mark.

    -Josh Wilson
    IT Manager

  5. Chris says:
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    I really don’t think the original post was diminishing the dangers of texting while driving. It was merely mentioning another driver distraction. Although I have to agree that texting and talking on the cell phone is probably the most prominent of distractions these days, especially among teens, any distraction can be serious or deadly. In fact, today I saw a worker bent down in the center of the road. I am not sure what kind of repair work he was doing,but he was wearing a hat and bright yellow vest. But, he was there alone in the middle of the intersection. I have no idea where is truck was. As I was waiting for the light to turn (I was making a right turn in the far lane), I heard brakes screaching. Apparently a driver was so distracted by this road worker that he almost ran a red light. Bottom line, a distraction is a distraction. I don’t think anyone diludes one over the other. What I do believe is that texting and talking on the phone are so common that we hear about it consistently. I hope this helps stop people from enganging in these activities. It is many of the other distractions we don’t hear about as often that need to be addressed. All driver distractions are simply unacceptable. I commend everyone that continues to address this situation and those, like yourself that take action to make a change. The more we speak out the better are the chances to reach the guilty parties because you can’t sell something until they are ready to listen.