A picture of a dog and some luggage in front of a car with the words, "why your pets shouldn

It is a nice sunny morning and you and your pet are off for an eventful day at the park. As usual, you and Fido get into the car and pull out of the driveway. Partway through the trip, Fido decides that the backseat is not the ideal spot for the ride and jumps into the front seat with you.

You don’t complain and instead embrace your furry friend. However, you are distracted by Fido as he gives you affectionate kisses and presses his nose to the driver’s side window. You fail to notice the car in front of you has come to a stop. By the time you do notice, it’s too late. Your car slams into the back of the car in front of you, throwing you and Fido forward. Fido is crushed between you and the steering wheel. 

Thankfully, both of you are okay besides a few bruises. But the driver ahead of you is not as lucky. Now, instead of enjoying a nice, sunny day, you are in a nightmare situation complete with a lawsuit that may cost you a pretty penny in damages. What do you do and how could this have been avoided?

Understanding the Danger of Driving With a Dog on Your Lap

Distracted driving is a common term that every driver knows. We often associate it with texting and driving, eating food while driving, changing the radio, or even turning around to talk to the passengers in the back seat. Distracted driving is a serious issue that caused 431 deaths in 2021 in Texas alone. And while we don’t talk about it as much, driving with a dog in your lap is also a form of distracted driving that puts you, other drivers, and your dog at risk. 

We love dogs here at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C., which is why we want to bring this issue to the attention of our community. We want you, other drivers, and pets to all stay safe on the road. In this article, we discuss the risks and potential consequences of choosing to drive with a dog in your lap and how to keep you and your pets safe while driving. 

Dogs Are a Major Distraction to Drivers

A survey by AAA and Kurgo brought attention to this issue when they surveyed a wide range of pet owners to see why people drive with their pets and what kind of distractions they cause. The findings paint a horrifying picture:

  • 56% of respondents have driven with their pet in the vehicle at least once a month over the past year.
  • 29% of respondents admitted to being distracted by their dog while they were on the road.
  • 65% of respondents admitted to engaging in potentially dangerous activities while driving with their dog. 
    • 52% admitted to petting their dog while driving.
    • 23% admitted to using their arms or hands to restrict their dogs while driving.
    • 18% admitted to reaching into the backseat while driving to interact with their dog.
    • 17% admitted to allowing their dog to ride in their lap or holding them while driving.
    • 3% admitted to taking photos of their pets while driving.

Potential Risks of Having a Dog in Your Lap or Letting Them Loose in the Car

Dogs create a lot of risks when they are unrestrained in the car. These risks include but are not limited to:

  • Blocking views out of the windows.
  • Hitting or jostling the steering wheel.
  • Getting under your feet.
  • Forcing you to remove your hands from the wheel to control the dog.
  • Moving the gear shift.
  • Blocking the airbag during an accident, potentially leading to serious injury to both you and your pet.

You can even get distracted if your dog remains in the backseat. The following actions or behaviors can cause a driver to take their eyes off the road:

  • Vomiting
  • Crying
  • Pawing at their owners from the back seat
  • Trying to jump to the front seat

The Dangers of Getting Into an Accident With Your Dog

A car has rear-ended a commercial bus.

Letting dogs loose in a car significantly raises the risk of them getting injured than when they are kept in a crate. While a seatbelt can protect the driver and other passengers, dogs will not have the same protection preventing them from being thrown forward.

A large dog who weighs about 75 pounds can be thrown at a force of 40 times its weight during an accident. This means that at even 25 mph, the force of impact would be about 2,400 pounds for your dog, which can lead to broken bones, sprains, or even death.

Tips for Driving Safely With Your Dog in the Car

Driving with your dog in the car increases their risk of injury, but there are ways to reduce this risk, such as: 

  • Get a dog harness seat belt. Dog harness seat belts can be plugged into the regular seat belt and helps secure them in one position.
  • Put your dog in a crate. These keep your dog safe and comfortable while preventing them from moving around the vehicle. 
  • Use a plush carry box. This is a good solution for smaller dogs that may be a bit anxious about driving. It gives them a good view of you and their surroundings. 
  • Schedule plenty of stops. Dogs need time to stretch their legs, go to the bathroom, and expel energy. Extended time in the car can lead to a dog getting more restless.
  • Start with shorter journeys. You can train your dog to ride in a car and behave by starting with shorter trips to train positive behavior. Slowly increase the length of the trip to get them used to longer rides and make sure to reward good behavior.
  • Don’t feed your dog while driving. To prevent your dog from getting sick while in the car, it is best to feed them three hours before you leave for your trip.
  • Don’t let your dog hang his head out the window. While dogs do enjoy this, it is really bad for them. The fast-moving air can dry out their eyes and it also increases their risk of getting hit by debris.
  • Keep the air-conditioner on. Cars can get hot and this can lead to a dog getting dehydrated and very sick. Keep your car well ventilated.

Have You Been in an Accident?

The Hernandez Law Group, P.C. is committed to serving the individuals of Amarillo, DFW, and Abilene, Texas. We work hard to ensure that our clients get the compensation they deserve for accidents caused by another person’s negligence. Whether that negligence was a driver getting distracted by a dog in their lap or someone driving under the influence, you can trust our team to gather the right evidence and prove their liability. Contact us today for more information on our services or to schedule a free no-obligation consultation.