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Dogs and Driving Not the Ideal Safety Recipe

Go ahead, play with your dog. Just not while you're driving down the Garden State Parkway.

That is the message - more like the plea - from the American Automobile Association ("AAA"), which has just released a car accident study full of riveting statistics based on responses from 1,000 dog owners across the country who have driven with their pet in the car within the past year.

Here's a sobering number: More than 80 percent of those drivers say that their pet roams freely throughout the vehicle while it is moving; in other words, less than one in five dog owners uses any type of restraint system for his or her dog.

That omission can be deadly, for a number of reasons. For starters, 60 percent of pet-along-for-the-ride owners admit to being distracted while driving with their dogs. Couple that with the effect of a dog hurtling through the air on impact with another vehicle or when a driver hits the brakes hard. John Townsend, an AAA official, says that, "An unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 miles per hour will exert 2,400 pound of pressure."

That is a lot of force. "Imagine," Townsend says, "the devastation that can cause to your pet and anyone in the vehicle in its path."

Many drivers do more than just give their dogs complete mobility in the car or truck. They also pet them, feed them and give them water; 20 percent of the drivers surveyed by AAA also drive with their dogs sitting on their laps.

A driver distracted for two seconds doubles his or her risk of an accident. Dogs can be distracting. The math is simple, the potentially tragic effects on the road evident.

The conclusion: Pet and play with your dog all you want to. Just do it at home.

Related Resource: "Dog-gone dog distractions when you're driving" August 22, 2010

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