Don’t Let Your Pet Be a Driving Distraction!

beagle with head outside car window - Don’t Let Your Pet Be a Driving Distraction

If you have been monitoring the news lately, you are most likely aware of the alarming number of distraction-affected crashes. In fact, there were 3,154 people killed due to crashes that involved distracted drivers in 2013.*

You are also aware that texting and driving has rapidly become one of the top causes of motor vehicle crash deaths.  Driving while texting is just one of the many ways a person can get distracted when conducting a motor vehicle.  Other reasons could be using the cell phone, driving with the car’s stereo volume turned up high, unruly kids, applying make-up, drinking, eating, reading, and believe it or not pets. That’s right! Your fur-baby can cause you to have a motor vehicle accident.

Whether it is just a short trip to the shopping plaza, a visit to your veterinarian, a drive to the local park, or taking the great American road trip, driving with your dog or cat unrestrained in the car can cause you to have an accident.

Why do pets get anxious in cars? There a number of reasons why pets get anxious in cats.  Typically, your pet may associate a car ride with an unpleasant experience such as going to the veterinarian. In the case of a shelter pet, a dog or cat might think you no longer want it and are planning to drop it off at the local shelter. Or they just don’t get the concept of a noisy, moving box that takes you from point A to point B. Regardless of the reason, most pets get anxious when being taken for a ride, and the last thing you need while driving is the distraction an easily excitable passenger can create.

How can a pet be a distraction to a driver? There are a good number of ways. If your dog or cat is not restrained in the vehicle, it will be free to roam. Your pet could start licking your face as you drive. In the case of cats, it could jump on the dashboard and block your vision. A small dog or cat can work its way to the area where the brake and gas pedals are located. A frightened pet can suddenly jump on your lap, or in the case of a dog it can bark or howl so loudly that it could become difficult for you to stay focused on the road. In the event you need to brake hard, your unrestrained pet can become a projectile that could cause an accident.

What are ways to minimize a pet from being a distraction to a driver? Luckily, there a number of ways to help reduce distractions caused by a pet in a car. Here are just a few:

Provide a Pet Harness —safe, easy-to-use, and comfortable pet harnesses allow you to securely place your dog in a car seat. Designed with your dog’s safety in mind, the harness easily attaches to any car seat belt. The harness attaches to leashes making it convenient for walking your pet as well. The harness is lined with fleece for maximum comfort. Safety harnesses are available in a variety of sizes.

Use a pet carrier —placing your pet in a carrier will avoid your dog or cat from roaming around in the car. To prevent the carrier from sliding around, either place the pet carrier on the floor of the car, or loop the safety belt around the carrier in a manner that will prevent sliding. Also make sure you place your pet’s favorite blanket and toy in the carrier. It will provide some comfort. Take along some dog treats or cat treats and give them to your pet prior to the trip. Once you arrive at your destination you can reward your pet with a treat.

Install a Pet Partition — if you drive a mini-van, an SUV or a wagon, you might consider getting a pet partition. Most partitions are easy-to-install and they provide your pet the freedom to move around while preventing it from making its way to the front of the car.

Try Some Pet Calming Solutions —prior to a car ride, you might want to feed your dog or cat some pet calming treats which could help reduce their anxiety about getting into a car. Or you can have your dog and cat wear a snug-fitting shirt. Safe and easy-to-put on snug-fitting shirts work like a constant big hug around your pet’s body to let it know how much you love them.

In summary, having a pet in a car can cause a driver to get easily distracted which could lead to an unfortunate accident and/or a fatality. Don’t be part of the alarming number of distracted drivers. Get a safety harness, pet carrier, pet partition, pet calming treats, or a snug-fitting shirt, so both you and your four-legged friend can enjoy the ride.

*Source: U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration http://www.distraction.gov/downloads/pdfs/Distracted_Driving_2013_Research_note.pdf  Accessed on 2/17/16.

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