Why Must I Never Drive with a Dog on My Lap?

Distracted Drivers

Although vehicle safety has vastly improved over the years, hazardous distractions have seemingly increased as well.  Distractions come in many forms; the most infamously known involve using a phone to text or talk, or taking a sip of coffee.  But there is one distraction of which most drivers are not aware, or think is a distraction at all. That is driving with a pet in the vehicle.

Many dog owners will explain that their pet means the world to them and will protect their furry friend any way that they can.  But many dog owners travel with their pets in an unsafe manner.  Driving with a dog on the driver’s lap, or anywhere else in the vehicle unsecured, puts themselves, their dog, and other drivers on the road in dangerous situations.

AAA has found that a driver who is distracted and takes their eyes off the road for a minimum of two seconds doubles the chances of a car accident.  Driving with a dog who is not secured properly in the back, or riding in the front, can easily distract the driver for longer than two seconds.

Driving with a Pet

A recent survey by AAA asked dog owners about their history driving with their animals, and the results may be surprising to some readers:

  • Almost one-fifth of people who drive with their dog in their car admit holding their pet or allow their pet to sit on their lap. This often leads to a myriad of dangerous situations for the driver and the dog as well.
    • For the driver, an unrestrained animal can easily hit the gear shifter or gas or brake pedal or can easily cause a distraction long enough to cause an accident. If the dog needs attention, the driver may subconsciously let go of the wheel and attend to the animal, which is obviously dangerous as well.
    • An unrestrained dog in the front seat faces several dangers. Speeding or braking suddenly can cause the dog to roll around and hit parts of the cabin, getting injured in the process.  An unsecured animal could also hit the driver if the car stopped suddenly.  Should an accident occur, a dog can also be crushed by an airbag or thrown from the car itself.
  • According to the AAA study, those who drove with their dog unrestrained believed that their pet does not need a restraint or seat belt, as they are already calm. Other reasons included that they want their dog to breathe out the window, or that the short trip they were taking did not warrant a seat belt.
  • There are several solutions available to the driver to protect themselves and their dog. There are different cargo crates or harnesses that work well with any car that can secure the pet correctly and safely in the back of the car.  Vehicles and pet travel equipment are designed with the driver and animal’s safety in mind.
    • Most states have distracted driving laws that are broad in scope. There are a few states that are aimed directly at drivers who drive with an unrestrained pet or with their animal in the front.  New Jersey is one of those states that have a specific pet-travel law.  Drunk driving and texting while driving both have campaigns and community awareness programs to help combat the dangers they bring.  There may be a time when all states begin to raise awareness for those who drive with their pets.

Atlantic City Car Accident Lawyers at the D’Amato Law Firm Help Protect Those Injured by Distracted Drivers

The modern driver faces many distractions; with smart phones and unruly passengers, a few seconds of attention away from the task of driving could end in disaster.  An unrestrained dog can easily distract a driver, and distracted driving can also be a form of negligence.  If you or a loved one had been injured by a distracted or negligent driver, contact the Atlantic City car accident lawyers at the D’Amato Law Firm right away.  Our experienced team of lawyers will get the help you need and the compensation you rightfully deserve.  Call us today at 609-926-3300 or contact us online for a free consultation. With an office in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, we assist accident victims in Atlantic City, Linwood, Galloway Township, Cape May, Vineland, Millville, Bridgeton, Ocean City, Woodbury, and across South Jersey.