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The Dangers of Driving with Unrestrained Pets in the Car

June 15, 2017

An unrestrained dog - whether curled up on a lap or hanging its head out the window - can be deadly

Do you drive with your dog in the car? A viral video from the UK shows a dog falling out of the driver's window on a busy highway and left hanging by a leash. The dog was thankfully unharmed, and the video stresses why it's so important to restrain your pup in your moving vehicle.

Wearing a seat belt is a great idea for everyone in the car. Dogs are safest when restrained properly with a canine-friendly seat belt like The Anchor™ Adjustable Pet Seat Belt (available at DJANGO).

Experts are increasing focus on the dangers of driving with unrestrained pets. While cellphones and texting remain key culprits behind many deadly accidents, unrestrained pets are considered another dangerous risk to those on the road.

According to Oregon Senator Bill Hansell, who is currently proposing a law that fines drivers with pets on their laps, "driving with any live animal on your lap presents a distraction and puts the pet, the driver, other passengers and other drivers at significant risk for an accident... an accident that would otherwise be preventable."

In addition to distracting the driver, unrestrained pets can be seriously injured, if not killed, in an accident.

"A pet that weighs 50 pounds, in a 35 mph collision, is projected forward like a cannonball with 1,500 pounds of force," explains Katherine Miller, director of applied science and research for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This exposes the pet to risk of serious injury or death and "can cause critical injuries to the folks in the front seat".

Although statistics on pet-related car accidents are hard to come by, here is what we know:

  • 85 million households own a pet, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA)
  • 60% of pet owners have driven with their dog at least once a month in the past year (AAA, Kurgo)
  • 23% have used their hands or arms to hold their dog in place while applying brakes (AAA, Kurgo)
  • 19% have used their hands or arms to keep their dog from climbing into the front seat (AAA, Kurgo)

According to 2015 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. How many of these accidents and injuries were the result of unrestrained pets?

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