Don’t Dabble in Doggie Distractions

While May was National Trauma Awareness Month, the American Trauma Society will probably not be upset with us if we bring attention to the cause in August. And to show you right off the bat that the suggestions that are given below are very do-able, I’ve enlisted Raj to show how happy dogs can be while wearing a seat belt. Raj one of my very good patients who has a driver who is fantastic with social media, and she kindly sent me his photo as a demonstration.

While driving while texting or talking on the phone has been given much attention, another source of driver distraction is unrestrained pets. Triple-A (AAA) recently reported that 29% of drivers admit to being distracted by their dogs while driving and 52% say they pet their dogs while driving or reach into the back seat to interact with their animals.

Looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in an accident according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Consider these facts and statistics…

  • 78 million dogs reside in more than 46 million U.S. households according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA).

  • Nearly six in 10 respondents have driven with their dog in a vehicle at least once a month over the past year, according to the AAA/Kurgo survey.

  • Three in 10 respondents admit to being distracted by their dog while driving.

  • 65% of dog owners admit to engaging in at least one potentially distracting activity while driving with their dog. Such as…

    • Petting their dogs (52%)
    • Using hands or arms to restrict dog’s movement or hold dog in place when putting on brakes (23%)
    • Using hands/arms to keep dog from climbing from back seat to the front seat (19%)
    • Reaching into back seat to interact with dog (18%)
    • Allowing dog to sit in lap or holding dog while driving (17%)
    • Giving food or treats to dog (13%)
    • Playing with dog (4%)
    • Taking a photo of dog (3%)

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving.

  • More than four in five respondents agree that having an unrestrained dog in a moving car can be dangerous.

  • Only 16 percent of dog owners who have driven with their pet use some form of restraint while their dog is in the vehicle.

  • Eighty-four percent of respondents bring their dogs on car trips but do not use a restraint. The reasons for not using a pet travel restraint include…
    • My dog is calm and do not think she/he needs a restraint (42%)
    • Never considered it (39%)
    • Just take dog on short trips (29%)
    • What dog to be able to put head out window (12%)
    • Too complicated / too much trouble (7%)
    • What dog to have fun in the car (3%)
    • Want to be able to hold dog (3%)
  • An unrestrained 10# dog in a crash at 50mph will exert roughly 500# of force, while an unrestrained 80# dog in a crash at only 30mph will exert approximately 2,400# of force.
  • Use of a pet restraint is three times greater among people who have heard of situations where unrestrained dogs were injured or caused injury to the passengers in a car crash compared to respondents who are not aware of such a situation.
  • Of the 16% who use a pet restraint, the AAA/Kurgo survey found the most frequently used are…
    • Pet harness/safety belt (56%)
    • Hard sided pet travel crate (30%)
    • Pet vehicle seat (10%)
    • Vehicle pet barrier (8%)
    • Soft sided pet travel crate (7%)
    • Other (5)%
  • 18% of respondents who drive with a dog in the vehicle also have children under the age of 13 who ride with them. Seven in ten of these motorists have driven with a child and an unrestrained dog in the vehicle at the same time.
  • Three in ten of respondents hae heard stories of car crashes where unrestrained dogs riding in the car were injured or caused injury to people in the car. Of the respondents who have heard these stories, four in ten said this impacted their decision about using a pet restraint.
  • Similar to a young child, the front airbag system in a vehicle can be deadly to a dog during a crash if sittin in the front seat, even if restrained.

Let’s not give Ohio a reason to follow New Jersey’s lead and fine dog owners for driving without restraints. Let’s take personal responsibility to secure our canine (and feline!) travelling companions and make sure that we all arrive safely at our destination.

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