About two-thirds of dog owners admit they have engaged in a distracting behavior while driving with their dogs, according to a recent survey from the American Automobile Association (AAA). Many of these canine passengers — about 84 percent — are free to roam the car as they please.
The biggest surprise associated with unrestrained pets in the car is that few motorists seem to understand how distracting a pet roaming inside the car can be.
How dangerous is distracted driving?
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) tracks statistics on distracted driving. According to CDOT, there were 14,754 distracted driving crashes in Colorado alone during 2014. These crashes led to 6,255 injuries and 59 fatalities.
In reality, these numbers could be even higher. It is often very difficult to determine whether a distraction played a role in a crash, because many require drivers reporting their own behaviors. Colorado does not track how many of these distracted driving accidents involve pets. But based on the large number caused by human passengers, the chances are good that there were at least a few.
How do pets cause distractions in the car?
Only about three out of every ten survey participants told AAA they believed their pets distracted them from driving. However, when researchers asked participants about specific behaviors, about 65 percent admitted to one or more of these risky behaviors.
- Petting their dog while driving (52 percent)
- Allowing the dog to sit in their lap or share their seat (17 percent)
- Offering treats or feeding their dog while driving (13 percent)
- Playing with the dog while driving (4 percent)
Of course, if you own a pet you are probably aware that a dog or cat can get into trouble no matter if you engage them or not. An unrestrained pet can climb over, under or in between seats, chew or claw on carpets and upholstery, block your view of the road ahead, knock your hands off the steering wheel, or even get under your feet making it impossible to apply the brakes.
How can I avoid distractions while traveling with my pet?
The best way to reduce the risk of a distracted driving crash is to take precautions to limit the opportunity your animal has to cause a distraction. The most effective way to do this is by investing in some type of restraint for your dog or cat. These come in a wide variety of designs, so there is sure to be one that fits both your furry friend and your vehicle. Some options include:
- Hard-sided pet carriers for small dogs and all cats
- Soft-sided crates or carriers for small dogs
- Basket-style pet seats for small dogs
- Large crates in the luggage area of an SUV for medium and large dogs
- Padded harnesses and seat belt clips for medium and large dogs
- Restraints that work with the vehicle’s LATCH system for large dogs
To reduce distractions and to ensure your pet does not suffer injuries from a deploying airbag, all pets should always ride in the back seat. Be sure to secure all crates or carrier in the vehicle using seat belts or other restraint systems.
It is also important to plan ahead in case of an accident. If you suffer injuries in a Colorado car accident and your pet is in the car, you have only a limited amount of time to have someone retrieve your pet from the scene before animal control picks them up. You may want to name an emergency contact to care for your pet if you are temporarily incapacitated in a crash.
Is a driver liable for a distracting driving accident caused by pets?
Yes. Distracted driving is 100 percent preventable. If a driver operates a vehicle while distracted by a pet and causes a crash, s/he may be responsible for any resulting injuries or property damage. While distracted driving is often difficult to prove, you may be able to use the police report if it notes the other driver had an unrestrained pet in the car.
What can I do if I suffer injuries in a Denver car crash caused by a distracted driver?
If you are injured in accident caused by a driver distracted by their pet, you can file a claim for compensation based on your liability auto insurance coverage.
We can help you get the compensation you deserve. At the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya, LLC, we can help you collect the evidence necessary to prove the other driver was not focused on the road at the time of the crash. Call us today at 303-758-4777 to learn more.