Is your pet safe in your vehicle? Probably not. Is having a pet in a vehicle a driver distraction? You bet.
Half of drivers who take their pets along for the ride do not restrain them, according to a new survey by AAA Michigan.
Half of drivers say they actually pet their dog or cat while driving; 39 percent allow their dog to stick its head out the window during the trip, and 32 percent let their pets roam around the vehicle while it’s moving.
As someone who once had a cat escape from its carrier in the car and sit on my head meowing while I was driving down I-94, I can tell you this is not a good idea.
Many drivers go only short distances with their pets, so they don’t see any need to restrain them, 200 pet owners told survey researchers. More than 76 percent of pet owners said they like to drive with their pets, and that’s fine.
But an unrestrained 10-pound dog in the car when it crashes at 30 mph will exert 300 pounds of force, while an 80-pound dog will exert 2,400 pounds of force, according to AAA. That can propel them right through the windshield.
You wouldn’t leave your baby or toddler exposed to such danger. Why would you risk your pet? Tethering your dog in the backseat or keeping your cat or dog in a sturdy carrier can prevent injury or even death.
Here’s the most interesting part of the new survey: only 16 percent of pet owners say they are distracted from driving while their pet is in the car.
Sounds reassuring, right?
But 25 percent allow a pet to sit on their lap, 15 percent have given a pet food or water while driving, and — alarm bells start ringing here — 15 percent of pet owners report taking a picture of their pet while driving.
What can you do? Keep your pet in the back seat. Use a harness or tether if you don’t have a pet carrier.
Never let a pet ride in the bed of a pickup truck or inside a camper or trailer. Never leave your pet baking in a parked car. Always stop every 2 hours if driving with a pet.
I know, I know. This sounds like too many rules. And if you are a dog, the freedom of the road means sticking your head out the window to feel the breeze in your fur.
But pet owners, nobody wants to be in a crash caused by your tail-wagging puppy crawling into your lap and licking your face while you drive.
As we tell our dogs, behave.