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Dog on Lap While Driving: Unsafe and Illegal

Poco Diablo McGuire gives a Four Paws Up view of how to drive safely with furry pals in his new article as the Sedona Eye Pet Columnist. Welcome, Poco D!

Sedona AZ (January 5, 2017)While driving under the influence was once the major focus of safety on the road, distracted driving of all kinds has gained national attention in recent years. Texting and driving has proven to be the latest serious road hazard; it has cost a number of lives, and 42 states have developed laws and campaigns against it.

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

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

Four Paws Up Pet Columnist, Poco Diablo McGuire, took a look at the facts and filed this report from his desk:

A 2011 AAA and Kurgo survey sought to ferret out the truth about how and why people drive with their pets, as well as any potential distractions their furry friends might potentially cause. The findings were interesting, to say the least; nearly 60 percent of respondents had driven with their pets in the last month, and 31 percent admitted to being distracted by their pet while driving. Distractions included everything from feeding and petting their pets to 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 them while driving. Twenty-three percent admitted to using their hands or arms to secure their pet when they hit the brakes! Aiyee!

Poco Diablo McGuire pal, Tila, loves her trees

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

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

States are taking notice of the potential dangers. Hawaii has made it illegal to carry a pet on one’s lap while driving, and many other states have introduced, considered or enacted legislation meant to stop drivers from traveling unsafely with pets. As a result, in some states, driving with your pet on your lap can earn you a traffic stop or a fine. Even in some states where 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.

Four Paws Up super pooch Inoch and his family get a Four Paws Up Shout Out from new pal Poco Diablo McGuire!

Increased awareness would likely also make a great difference: AAA notes that drivers who have heard of cases where unrestrained dogs were injured or caused injury to someone during a crash were three times likely to use a pet travel restraint.

While we love our pets and want them to enjoy every experience with us, the safest place for them (and everyone else riding along) is to be properly secured in the back seat or cargo area of your SUV or vehicle. There are a number of pet restraint options in many sizes and price ranges that are comfortable for dogs and cats (and other critter pals) which still allow them some freedom of movement. The type of pet vehicle safety device you select will depending on the size, temperament, and the type of pet you have. Types of pet safety devices include vehicle pet barriers, pet car and SUV seats, pet vehicle safety barriers, soft sided pet carriers, and hard sided pet travel crates and kennels.

No matter which pet vehicle safety device you decide is best for your pet, it is very important that you take the time to familiarize your pet with it. For example, if you choose a pet travel crate/kennel – set up the kennel inside your home and let your pet go in and out of it until comfortable.

The investment in a vehicle pet safety device is well worth the peace of mind of pet parents, and the safety of my Four Paws Up pals! And while you’re thinking safety and travels, check out pet friendly hotels and accommodations across the U.S. and Canada for your furry kids on my pal’s Trips With Pets site. Don’t leave home without practicing pet safety! As my loving mom says, “We are worth it!”

And, Harley, here’s to you Bro!

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  1. Poco Diablo McGuire says:

    Mom’s making me do this. She say confessional is good for the sole. Sooo…….
    If ah could (and beeleev me ah tried) to sit on her lap in the car, yep – that’s the choice. But —- no, no, no -Ma won’t let me. Now Auntie Lea gived me a swell dog bed thingy that’s good in the back seat – and ah can look out the winder and everywhere. BUT – give me the chance and I’ll sneak rite back into the front seat NEXT to Mom and sumtimes she lets me stay there cuz ah behaves mahself.

    Poco Diablo McGuire

  2. Chip says:

    Poco, I have to be in a cage when/if I go in the car. And it not usually a good trip!!!

    Hugs and Hisses – Just Chip!!!

  3. Linus, Mojo & Nikki says:

    Believe us when we say we don’t dare ride on Mom’s lap when she’s driving. We love to ride in the car so we had better not try it or that’s the last trip we’ll have (except to go to the Vets which, by the way, we don’t mind ‘cuz we all go together–like a family outing). And besides, 2 of us are too big to sit on a lap (except in the house)…Sooo, we are relegated to the cargo area of the van or Suv. Hey, but a ride is a ride.

  4. Marty in Louiville, KY says:

    Poco Diablo McGuire,

    You are very wise in a well written column with I’m betting some help from your Mom.

  5. Poco Diablo McGuire says:

    Missy Marty – Mom only wishes on this one.:-)

  6. Toby says:

    Hey Poco I LOOOOOVE riding in the car. My mom bought me a raised seat so I can ride shotgun safely. I can tell you my harness attached to the seat has saved me a smushed nose more than once; cuz not all Hoomans drive well but Mom does!
    She also doesn’t allow the window down far enough for me to hang my head out which is bad for my eyes. I still get to feel the wind in my fur because with the window partly down and the sunroof open there’s plenty of airflow! Ride on!!

  7. Buffy says:

    To Toby – arf, arf – know what ya mean. Mom slammed the brakes t’other day to miss a racer in one of them round-bout thingins and – and well, it would have been so-long Buffy without my safety gear in the back seat. Let’s hear it for no lap riding- ARF, ARF, ARF = happy yaps!

  8. Buster says:

    This ain’t nothin’ to joke about – my buddy, Jasper, fell outta a jeep a while back and was hurt bad. Lucky he wasn’t kilt. We needs you humans to take kindly and treat us with what my mom calls common sense.

  9. Toby says:

    Good driving paws up to your mom @Buffy! Amen @Buster to common sense by Hoomans! Ride safely everybodee!

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