Doggie Distractions


It’s now illegal for Marylanders to drive with their hands on their phone, but according to a AAA study, we’re still likely to fall victim to another driving distraction: our animal companions.

The study — a joint effort between AAA and Kurgo Pet Dog Products — polled 1,000 dog owners who have driven with their dogs over the past year. Fifty-nine percent of pet owners admit that travel with their pets distracts them from the job at hand. The trouble arises because most drivers surveyed didn’t see the danger in their own behavior.

Dogs are the biggest distractions, with owners admitting to petting their pups, holding dogs in their laps, feeding or giving water to their dog or playing with their dogs — all while operating a car. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles the likelihood of a crash. Try feeding your dog in two seconds.

The behavior isn’t any safer for the dogs. Though 80 percent of those surveyed claimed to drive regularly with their pet, only 17 percent use dog-restraining devices. Restraining tools not only protect your pet from becoming a projectile in case of a crash but also limit your pet’s range of motion, which could prevent the crash in the first place.

Letting your pet ride shotgun doesn’t do the dog any favors, either. The effects of airbags on dogs has been shown to be similar to the damage an airbag causes a toddler.

So the next time you climb behind the wheel with Fido, remind yourself that hands-free also means hands-off.

For more tips on traveling with pets: