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Keep pets from distracting you behind the wheel

Distracted driving is caused by many different factors including cellphone use, eating, talking to passengers and changing the radio. However, many people don't think about their pets when they talk about distracted driving but it seems like more animal lovers need to be aware of the risks they face when they get behind the wheel with their beloved animal with them.

Many people frequently drive with their pets in the vehicle. Having a dog or cat in the car can be very dangerous and can cause drivers to become distracted. One of the most dangerous things a driver can do is have their animal unrestrained in their vehicle and yet 84 percent of drivers said they allow their pets to ride in the car unrestrained. 

Not having pets in a kennel or restrained somewhere in the vehicle can be very risky and even cause car accidents that result in serious injuries. Having pets roam free in the vehicle can easily create a distraction for the driver.

A study of people who drive with their pets by the AAA found that 29 percent of drivers said they were distracted by their pet, and 64 percent admitted to engaging in a pet-related activity while driving. Drivers admitted to petting, playing and giving treats to their pets while they drove. Some drivers even said they took pictures of their pet while driving.

Animals who are unrestrained in the car may climb onto a driver's lap, try to fit underneath seats or the driver's feet or jump around the vehicle. All of these behaviors can be very distracting and dangerous.

In addition to pets causing distractions, they can also be seriously injured or killed in a car accident. Unrestrained pets can be thrown from a vehicle and pets sitting on a driver's lap can be crushed by an airbag.

Drivers have a few different options to reduce distractions while driving with their pet. Pets can be placed in kennels, pet harnesses or in the back seat with a gate preventing them from climbing into the front of the vehicle. All of these options will improve safety while traveling with a pet and reduce the risk of being in a car accident.

Source: Mississauga News, "Pets and distracted driving: What you need to know," Kim Salerno, July 24, 2013

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