Mr. Barker takes his teacup poodle, Kennel, on a ten minute drive to the dog park every afternoon. Kennel rides shotgun. Sometimes, he sits in the crook of Mr. Barker's arm and hangs his head out the window on their drive. Mr. Barker loves his dog, but he doesn't realize that driving with Kennel unrestrained could result in a serious accident for all involved, possibly even the death of his dog.
Dogs Riding In Cars
According to the Automobile Club of America, 84% of all dog owners travel with their pets unrestrained in the car. Tens of thousands of car crashes each year happen because a driver was distracted by their pet. There are several ways a pet can distract a driver:
- seeking the driver's attention
- puts its face in front of the driver's face
- starts chewing the upholstery
- roaming around the car from back seat to front and back again
- trying to open a window
- puts paws on the steering wheel
- barking and going crazy over passing vehicles, pedestrians, other dogs, cats, etc.
A 2011 survey sponsored by AAA and pet gear company, Kurgo, found that:
- 52% of all pet owners have petted their dogs while driving
- 23% of all pet owners used their arms to restrain their dogs while braking
- 19% took a hand off the wheel to prevent pets from climbing into the front seat
- 17% held their dogs in their lap
- 15% have fed their dogs treats while driving
One well-known accident caused by a pet happened in 1999 to author, Stephen King. He suffered several broken bones and a collapsed lung after he was hit by a driver who claimed to be distracted by his unrestrained dog. A woman in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, lost her black Labrador Retriever when she braked to avoid a cow crossing the road in 2010. The dog crashed through the windshield, landing on the hood of her car. He died several hours later.
An unrestrained pet becomes a projectile if an accident occurs. Traveling at 30 miles per hour, an unrestrained 10 pound dog will exert 300 pounds of pressure in an accident, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The heavier the dog, the more pressure is exerted. Your dog can fly through the windshield faster than a rocket can be launched. Should an unrestrained pet survive an accident, it could run away after the crash, possibly get hit by oncoming traffic, cause another accident, or get in the way of First Responders.
Pets Causing Accidents
Accidents with your pet inside the car are not the only ones to occur. Dogs that are unleashed and left alone in an unsecured yard can suddenly dash off into the street after a squirrel or wandering cat.
In Niagara Falls, NY, in 2013, a woman let her five year old Yorkshire Terrier out in the backyard. The yard did not have a gate and the Yorkie chased a squirrel out into the street. The driver couldn't stop in time and hit the dog. The Yorkie died and the driver suffered head injuries from hitting the steering wheel. In Wheeling, Virginia, a case of negligence was found in favor of a cyclist who fell off his bike when being chased by a pit bull left unsupervised in his owner's front yard. The accident resulted in hearing loss for the cyclist and the court ordering the dog to be put down.
Cats Are At Risk
Dogs are not the only pets involved in traffic accidents. The Canadian Veterinary Journal found that 51% of cats with outdoor access died suddenly and unexpectedly in traffic accidents. Young cats between seven months and two years are most likely to be involved in a traffic accident as older cats spend more time indoors and closer to home. Cats that do not wear reflective collars are difficult to see at night and are thirty percent likely to die if hit by a car. While a cat may not cause a major accident, a minor accident can occur if more than one vehicle is involved and could result in injuries or death for the cat and injuries for the occupants of the car.
Taking precautions to make sure pets are protected from traffic fatalities both inside and outside of the car will insure they have a long and happy life.