When you think about it…we use seat belts to protect us; what about our companion animals?

According to a recent poll, half of our readers still travel with their dogs loose in the car. Buckling up or crating could save their lives.

Distracted driver laws abound across our country. By making texting and using handheld cell phones while driving illegal in many states, legislators are saying that motorists must be held accountable for some of their behaviors behind the wheel, behaviors that are considered dangerous. However, there is another distraction that is garnering attention in state legislatures—companion animals loose in cars.

Have you ever seen a dog sitting on his owner’s lap while the owner is driving? How about a dog hanging her head out the car window as her owner drives down the interstate? Animals who travel unrestrained inside vehicles or in the back of pickup trucks create moments of driver distraction which can lead to accidents.

So, along with talking on cell phones, texting, reading books, clipping toenails (yes, a driver was observed clipping his toenails!), animals loose in the car, on the driver’s lap, sticking their heads out windows, running around in the back of pickup trucks are considered distracted driver issues that in some states are now against the law.

We don’t put children in cars unrestrained (or at least we shouldn’t), so let’s not put our companion animals in cars unrestrained either. For smaller animals, carriers are the safest choice. For larger ones, there are seatbelt restraints available at pet supply stores and online.

People have lost their lives because their animals distracted them. In one incident, a woman crossed the yellow line of a two-lane road and slammed into a UPS truck. She was conscious when the paramedics arrived. She told them that one of her dogs jumped from the back seat into the front and that distracted her. That’s when she veered into oncoming traffic. She died later that evening. Along with losing her life, she caused the death of the two dogs riding with her.

When you think about it…distracted drivers are dangerous drivers whether the distraction is a text message or a Chihuahua. Protect yourself, your animals, and the other drivers on the road. Buckle up or crate your companion. You could be saving all of your lives.

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