With laws in place to keep motorists’ eyes on the road and hands on the wheel — discouraging the use of everything from cells phones and lipstick to an occasional cheeseburger — at least one distraction appears to have been overlooked.
According to AAA and Kurgo, a leading manufacturer of pet travel products, over 78 million dogs live in more than 46 million American households.
So, the potential for travel-related distractions is high with nearly 56 percent of people having driven with their dog at least once a month in 2011.
Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed admitted that they were distracted by their dogs while driving.
Additional statistics are worrisome:
–52 percent admitted to petting their dogs while driving;
–23 percent reported to using their hands or arms to holding their dogs in place while braking;
–19 percent have used their hands or arms to “keep their dog from climbing into the front seat creating a situation where they remove at least one hand from the steering wheel.”
With 83 percent of respondents conceding that driving with a pet was dangerous, there are questions, too, about the safety of the animals themselves.
According to Rick Messmore, marketing director with automobile accessories manufacturing firm CoverCraft.com, many drivers think nothing of bringing their four-legged friends along for the ride — until some tragic accident occurs.
“We’ve known many people who allow their dogs to sit in the front seat of the car with an airbag that (if deployed) would break the dog’s neck,” Messmore said.
He added that the damage a dog would suffer from being thrown out of a vehicle, or up against the car’s occupants, could be catastrophic. Additionally, rescue personnel often describe a chaotic scene when trying to calm a traumatized pet at a crash site, he said.
CoverCraft’s Ruff Rider products — belted restraints designed for animals of varying sizes — were created after developer Carl Goldberg was in an accident that sent his beloved pet flying through the windshield.
Just two states have implemented pet restraint guidelines — New Jersey requires all animals to be belted and California law says that all animals must be restrained in the bed of pick-up trucks, according to Messmore.
“We’ve heard of about 28 states with pending legislation to require animal restraints (in cars),” Messmore said, adding that the process is a sluggish one, likely because of enforcement issues.
To learn more about Ruff Rider pet harness products, visit ruffrider.com.
Kerri S. Mabee can be reached at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @kerrimabee.