The Risks of Driving With Dogs

AAA survey finds drivers are distracted by their pets and often engage in dangerous behavior.

Posted: August 24, 2010, 2 a.m. EDT

Dog in driver seatDog owners who drive with their pets often engage in risky behavior while behind the wheel, according to a survey released last week by AAA automotive club and Kurgo pet products.

The online survey polled 1,000 dog owners who had driven with their dog in the past 12 months. It found that more than half of the respondents participated in at least one distracting activity while driving with their dog. Specifically, 55 percent said they have pet their dog while driving, and one in five (21 percent) allowed their dog to sit in their lap. Seven percent admitted to giving food and water to their dog and five percent said they have played with their dog.

Eighty percent of respondents said they have driven with their pets on a variety of car trips, yet only 17 percent said they used a pet safety restraint.

Driving with an unrestrained dog poses a danger not only to the pet, but also to the driver and passenger, said Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, AAA National Traffic Safety Programs manager.

“An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert 2,400 pounds of pressure,” she said. “Imagine the devastation that can cause to your pet and anyone in the vehicle in its path.”

Of the 17 percent of drivers who use a pet restraint, the survey found the most frequently used restraint products are:

  • Pet harness/safety belt (52 percent) 
  • Hard-sided pet travel crate (28 percent)
  • Pet vehicle seat (18 percent)
  • Soft-sided pet travel crate (13 percent)
  • Vehicle pet barrier (9 percent)


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Nilah   Mesa, AZ

8/26/2010 11:20:51 AM

Very informative. Yet the "variety of trips" could be less than a mile round trip, or more. I think the "variety" needs to be told on a number bases.

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Liza   Grand Bay-Westfield, NB

8/25/2010 5:31:00 AM

We have a car harness for our dog. People have laughed at us but, my husband just tells them that Buck is a family member and you protect your family and keep them safe. I even drove through a police spot check and when the cop saw that Buck was "belted in" he said he had never seen anyone do that before and said what a great idea it was and that from then on if he ever stopped a vehicle with an unrestrained dog he would recommend it.

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Terry   Houston, TX

8/25/2010 1:43:01 AM


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Galadriel   Lothlorien, ME

8/24/2010 10:48:45 PM

I always drive with a small dog in my lap. It's not distracting but

In the event of a crash I'm sure the dog wouldn't do well. But I don't think I or the vehicle would either. And I always make sure my mind is on road first and foremost. We are capable of multitasking but I do believe one needs a well behaved dog.

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