Rethinking Distracted Driving

Now that distracted driving laws are in place we all are accustomed to taking a moment to think about when to use our phones and electronic devices. Some of us may not have thought about how perhaps our own pet could cause distracted driving.

As the nice weather approaches, we tend to travel around town, run errands or drive to our holiday destination with our pet. It’s important to keep in mind that distracted driving includes having your pet sitting on your lap as you drive, looking out the driver window or running around the vehicle causing a distraction.

If we choose to drive with our pet on our lap are we perhaps at risk of causing accidents because our focus is not on our driving, or other traffic, but rather on our pet’s movements next to the steering wheel? Sadly this is not a rare occurrence anymore.

An unrestrained pet can be hugely distracting — if the pet is seeking your attention, putting his face right in front of yours, hanging out the driver window, chewing up the upholstery or is vomiting because he is carsick. Any of these can lead to deadly consequences when driving.

In a crash, an unrestrained pet can turn into a deadly projectile or get crushed by a driver or passenger who is thrown forward by the collision. An air bag that is released can cause immense damage, crushing or possibly killing your pet because of the force at which the bag is released.

“A pet that weighs 50 pounds, in a 35 mph collision, is projected forward like a cannonball with 1,500 pounds of force, and that can cause critical injuries to the folks in the front seat,” says Katherine Miller, director of applied science and research for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Not to mention the tragic consequences for the beloved pet.

Pet owners should use a harness, carrier or crate for their animals, securing their pets in the middle of the back seat. There are many kinds of safety harnesses and carriers for all price ranges. With a well-designed device, it takes no more than 10 seconds for an owner to safely secure their pet. Restraining a pet also keeps the animal from running off after a crash and possibly getting hit, perhaps causing another crash, or from getting in the way of first responders.


For many people their pet is a member of the family, so ideally we want to keep them safe and to live a long and healthy life. Pet ownership is not just about feeding and loving them — it’s about keeping them safe in every way, and that includes when they are travelling in a car or truck.

We all need to remember that when it comes to distracted driving Man’s Best Friend is not a driver’s best friend when he is unrestrained.

Written by Julie Sandberg , CCS