Pets: An Underestimated Driver Distraction

Many Illinois dog owners want to take their furry family members with them when they go places. In 2011, the American Automobile Association conducted a survey of 1,000 dog owners to discover what kinds of driver distractions and safety issues the animals may be causing.

A driver distraction occurs when the eyes, hands or attention are disengaged from the task of driving. When an individual is visually distracted from the task of driving for two seconds, it doubles the chance of a crash. A Chicago car accident attorney knows that responding to a dog’s needs or negative behaviors often requires more than two seconds. It frequently involves taking at least one hand off the steering wheel, as well.

Types of pet interactions

Nearly six in 10 dog owners admitted to bringing their dogs for a ride in the car at least once each month. Pets and drivers often interact during the trip. Most drivers said they pet their dog while driving. It is not unusual for dogs to ride in the front seat, according to the AAA survey. Sometimes dog lovers even allow their animals on their laps while they drive. Many drivers reach into the back seat to interact with the pet, or occasionally use a hand or arm to attempt to keep the pet from jumping into the front seat.

Seat belts and car seats are available for people in the vehicle, and pet restraints can also be purchased. However, only 16 percent of the owners who take their dogs in the car say they use pet restraints. Eighty-three percent acknowledge that leaving the pet loose in the vehicle is unsafe.

The potential for a car accident is much higher when an animal is unrestrained in the vehicle. This is compounded by the greater risk of danger in a crash. It is not against the law to take a dog for a drive. Even so, a responsible owner should be aware of the hazards bringing a pet along may create for everyone on the road and take the proper steps for safety.

Hazards to people and pets

In the event of a car accident, the animal is in just as much danger as an unrestrained passenger. A Chicago car accident attorney understands that a dog that is not restrained also creates a hazard for the other occupants of the vehicle. A 10-pound dog creates roughly 300 pounds of force in a crash at 30 miles per hour. This can easily kill the dog, and has the potential to injure the driver or passengers in the car.

An individual injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a pet distraction may be entitled to compensation to cover medical costs, pain and suffering. A Chicago car accident attorney may offer legal advice on the best way to proceed.