The following is a USA report but the rules are relevant to Australia – readrules on driving with animals in the carat

While driving under the influence was once the major focus of safety on theroad, distracted driving of all kinds has gained national attention in recentyears. Texting and driving has proven to be the latest serious road hazard; ithas cost a number of lives, and 42 states have developed laws and campaignsagainst it.

Now, many states are focusing their attention on a new threat – one that hasgone under the radar thus far, but may prove to be as dangerous as texting anddriving. This one involves the widely practiced habit of driving with a pet onone’s lap.

Why it’s a problem

There are no real statistics to say exactly how many crashes and other trafficincidents pets on laps cause each year. However, The AAA Foundation forTraffic Safety notes that taking your eyes off the road for just two secondsdoubles your chance of a crash, and two seconds is all it would take for afrightened or excited pet to jump up on you, claw you, climb up onto thedashboard, or worse – crawl under the brake pedal.

The facts

A survey by AAA and Kurgo sought to ferret out the truth about how and whypeople drive with their pets, as well as any potential distractions theirfurry friends might potentially cause. The findings were interesting, to saythe least; nearly 60 percent of respondents had driven with their pets in thelast month, and 31 percent admitted to being distracted by their pet whiledriving. Distractions included everything from feeding and petting their petsto taking their photos while driving.

Seventeen percent of respondents who drove with their pet – nearly one in five– admitted to either allowing their pet to sit on their lap or holding themwhile driving. Twenty-three percent admitted to using their hands or arms tosecure their pet when they hit the brakes.

The reasons

Respondents cited several reasons for not restraining their pets in the car.The biggest of these reasons was their pet’s temperament; they consideredtheir pet to be calm enough to make restraints unnecessary. Many respondentshad simply never considered the idea of restraints. Some said they didn’t userestraints because they only went on short trips. And a few respondents notedthat they wanted their dog to be able to put his head out the window.

The dangers

Beyond potentially causing accidents, there are very real dangers to allowinga pet to sit on your lap. If a crash were to occur, a small pet could easilybe crushed by a deployed airbag or thrown from the car and injured. Inaddition, during a crash an unrestrained dog can act as a missile. As AAANational Traffic Safety Programs Manager Jennifer Huebner-Davidson notes, “Anunrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert roughly 300pounds of pressure . . . Imagine the devastation that can cause to your petand anyone in its path.”

The solution

States are taking notice of the potential dangers. Hawaii has made it illegalto carry a pet on one’s lap while driving, and many other states haveintroduced, considered or enacted legislation meant to stop drivers fromtraveling unsafely with pets. As a result, in some states, driving with yourpet on your lap can earn you a traffic stop or a fine. Even in some stateswhere there is no specific law pertaining to driving with a pet on one’s lap,you can still be cited for doing so under broader distracted driving laws.

Increased awareness would likely also make a great difference. AAA notes thatdrivers who have heard of cases where unrestrained dogs were injured or causedinjury to someone during a crash were three times likely to use a pet travelrestraint.

While we love our pets and want them to enjoy every experience with us, thesafest place for them (and everyone else riding along) is to be properlysecured in the back seat or cargo area of your SUV. There are a number of petrestraint options in many sizes and price ranges that are comfortable for dogsand still allow them some freedom of movement.

The type of pet vehicle safety device you select will depend on the size,temperament, and type of pet you have. Types of pet safety devices include:vehicle pet barriers, pet car and SUV seats, pet vehicle safety barriers, softsided pet carriers, and hard sided pet travel crates and kennels.

No matter which pet vehicle safety device you decide is best for your pet, itis very important that you take the time to get your pet used to it. Forexample, if you choose a pet travel crate/kennel — set up the kennel inside ofyour home and let your pet go in and out of the kennel until he or she iscomfortable with it.

The investment in a vehicle pet safety device is well worth it if it means thepeace of mind of pet parents, and the safety of their furry kids.


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