Driving with an Unrestrained Pet

Posted by Richard P. Hastings | Nov 12, 2010 | 0 Comments


Statistically, driving with your unrestrained pet is potentially as dangerous as driving under the influence.

Most people would not consider getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after consuming too much alcohol, but few think twice before driving with an unrestrained pet in their vehicle. Statistically speaking, driving with an unrestrained pet can create the same risk of harm as drunk driving. To put this into perspective, there were 10,142 deaths attributed to drunk-driving accidents in 2019 and many more injures.

The epidemic of distracted driving encompasses many types of activities. There are three main types of driver distractions, one of which being visual distractions. This type of distraction involves something that causes you to take your eyes off the road, taking your hands off the steering wheel while driving, and/or something that takes your mind off of operating the vehicle. 

Being a distracted driver affects all age groups but the demographic that is most adversely affected are the young and inexperienced drivers. Drivers under 20 have the highest proportion of fatal accidents.

As of 2020, Connecticut is one of only twenty-four states in the country that prohibits drivers from using handheld phones while operating a motor vehicle. Currently, Hawaii is the only state that bans drivers from allowing some type of interference with their control over a motor vehicle by an animal, person, or another object. Both Virginia and California attempted to pass legislation prohibiting motor vehicle operators from having pets on their lap but neither law was enacted.

According to a recent survey, 90 percent of pet owners travel with their pets. Many of those pets roam freely through the vehicle often hanging out of an open window. Not only can unrestrained pets become a distraction to the driver, but they can also fall or jump out of the vehicle- or can become a projectile inside of a vehicle- which can cause further damage in an accident.

According to the Automobile Association of America, 31 percent of respondents to a recent survey admitted to being distracted by their dog while driving and 21 percent have allowed their dog to sit on their lap while driving.

"Restraining your pet when driving cannot only help protect your pet, but you and other passengers in your vehicle as well," said Lloyd Marshall, a senior vice president with AAA Southern New England. "An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert 2,400 pounds of pressure."

Driving with an unrestrained pet can cause three types of problems:

  1. Your pet can distract you thereby causing an accident.
  2. If you are in an accident, your pet can act as a projectile inside your vehicle, thereby putting everyone inside at a greater risk of injury.
  3. If you are involved in an accident and are injured, an aggressive pet inside of your vehicle will make it more difficult for emergency medical personnel to get to you and begin providing emergency medical assistance.

Distracted driving and visual distractions can be minimized if you properly restrain your pet while driving.

To properly restrain your pet, you should consider any one of the following:

  • A Seat Belt Harness System - A seat belt system is based upon the size of your pet and is attached to your vehicle's seatbelt.
  • Safety Barriers - These are installed in your vehicle which separate one area of your vehicle from another to keep your pet from interfering with your ability to operate your vehicle and will stop your pet from becoming a projectile in the event of a collision.
  • Pet Carriers - A properly sized and secured pet carrier could be the best option for protecting you and your small pet while driving.

By taking needed precautions prior to operating a motor vehicle you can help to reduce the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. If you have been injured as a result of a distracted driver, please don't hesitate. Click here to contact us or call 888-244-5480 for advice.

About the Author

Richard P. Hastings

Attorney Hastings concentrates his practice on personal injury and litigation. Devoted to helping those who have suffered some type of wrong, Richard P. Hastings concentrates his law practice on personal injury law.


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