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Survey shows dogs to be a dangerous driver distraction

Consumer Reports News: July 25, 2011 11:08 AM

Most of the buzz around distracted driving involves the use of a cell phone, but a new study shows that dogs in the car can be a hazard, as well.

AAA and Kurgo, a pet travel company, polled 1,000 dog owners who have driven with their furry friend in the past 12 months and found that the most common reported form of distraction (52 percent) is petting their dog while driving. Twenty-three percent used their hands or arms to hold their dog in place when braking, and 19 percent have used their hands or arms to prevent the dog from climbing up to join them in the front seat, which meant that only one hand was on the steering wheel and their attention was divided.

Other behaviors include reaching back to pet their dog (18 percent), having the dog sit on their lap while driving (17 percent), and giving food or treats (13 percent). All of these behaviors can increase the risk of a crash because your eyes are not on the road and both hands not on the wheel.

The study also found that 83 percent of drivers agree that an unrestrained pet is dangerous, but only 16 percent restrain their pet.

"An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert roughly 300 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of pressure. Imagine the devastation that can cause to your pet and anyone in its path," said AAA National, Traffic Safety Programs Manager Jennifer Huebner-Davidson.

The risks are widespread with 78 million living in more than 46 million U.S. households. Next time you travel with Fido, restrain the dog for his safety and yours.

For tips on driving with your dog, see our report on safe road tripping with pets.

Flying with your pet
Road trips with your dog or cat

Liza Barth

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