Can pets in the car increase the risk of distracted driving?

On Behalf of | Jun 9, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

While most people associate distracted driving with texting and phone calls, there are other factors that cause this dangerous situation, including having pets in the car. A 2019 Volvo Car USA study revealed that incidents of distracted driving more than doubled when motorists had their pets in the car.  

While it is sometimes necessary for pet owners to transport their animals, there are several situations that may cause serious accidents and pose life-threatening injuries to drivers, pets and other motorists on the road.  

Unrestrained pets

Pets that are not confined to carriers or belted in with special harnesses made for them can increase the risk of causing a car accident. Unrestrained pets may inadvertently distract the driver in several ways, including:  

  • Jumping in his or her lap unexpectedly  
  • Suddenly obstructing the driver’s vision  
  • Smaller dogs blocking or stepping on the brake or gas pedals 

Even a brief incident can take a driver’s eyes off the road, which may lead to an accident.  

Nervous pets

Dogs, cats and even small animals that are anxious about traveling in a vehicle can make drivers feel stressed and cause them to pay more attention to their pets instead of the road. Crying or whining animals could make their owners feel just as anxious and may take their eyes off the road to comfort them. This may pose a danger to other drivers and pedestrians, especially at intersections and crosswalks, where traffic often stops at a moment’s notice and the risk of a rear-end collision may increase if pet owners become distracted by their nervous animal.  

Restraining an animal may lower the chances of a distracted driving accident. Proper training and encouraging positive travel behavior in a pet may also reduce these dangerous incidents.