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Pets In Cars: Not Good For Fido, Not Good For You

There are many forms of distracted driving, including talking or texting on a cellphone while driving, eating, putting on makeup, changing the radio station, etc., and each one has the potential to cause a crash. One form of distracted driving that AAA has recently studied involves unrestrained pets in cars.

If a pet owner thinks letting Fido run loose in the car is harmless, according to AAA, he is wrong. To quote the study, "a 35 m.p.h. accident can turn a 60-pound pet into a 2,700-pound projectile." And if Fido weighs more than 60 pounds, the situation can be even worse.

Dogs larger than 50 pounds and those smaller than 20 pounds are more likely to be brought along in the car for a ride. Regardless of where the dog is initially placed in the car, it is common for unrestrained dogs to jump into other areas of the vehicle if something outside captures its attention. This poses a distraction for the driver, particularly if the dog is jumping around, barking or climbs into the front seat with the driver.

Unrestrained cats also create distractions for drivers. Cars are not normally fans of moving vehicles, and will often attempt to hide while inside a car. Sometimes this hiding place may be near the driver's legs or under the driver's feet, preventing him or her from effectively applying the brakes or accelerator.

While pet owners may believe that holding pets in their lap as they drive is safe, animals who sit in their driver's laps suffer severe and tragic fates, especially if the driver is in a wreck and the airbag deploys, crushing the animal and breaking its bones, and also possibly causing catastrophic injuries to the driver.

All pets should be in a pet safety belt, an animal car seat, a portable kennel or a cage while riding in a vehicle. In addition to protecting the pet, this prevents the driver from becoming distracted by a mobile animal and can prevent a crash caused by the distraction.

Drivers who cause a wreck because they are distracted by a pet inside their vehicle may still be found liable for damages from the crash, including medical expenses of the injured party, property damage, loss of wages, and pain and suffering.

Source: "Pet Auto Safety: Safe Restraints for Pets Riding in Cars,"

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