Driving with Pets and Avoiding Dangerous Distractions

driving with petsWith the term “distracted driving,” most people think of texting, but there are many other types of distractions, including having pets in the car. Distracted driving refers to anything that takes the driver’s attention, hands or eyes off the road.

Pet Distractions While Driving

It is important for drivers to avoid all forms of distraction while behind the wheel.  An unrestrained pet in your vehicle may cause you to divert your attention away from the road, potentially leading to a serious accident.

Pets can cause drivers to be distracted if:

  • The pet moves around the vehicle or climbs on the driver
  • The pet gets near the pedals or under the driver’s feet
  • The driver needs to pet the animal to keep it calm
  • The driver needs to hold down the animal
  • The driver or others in the vehicle take pictures with the pet
  • The pet barks or makes other sounds that cause the driver to turn around
  • The driver feeds the pet or gives it water
  • The driver plays with the pet

While you want to make your pet comfortable, it is important that your pet does not put you and others on the road at risk for an accident.

Tips for Driving Safely with Pets

Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to prevent your pet from becoming a distraction, including:

  • Use a pet restraining system – There are a variety of restraining systems available. Pet seat belts adapt a regular passenger seat belt to keep your pet in place. Regular seat belts are not designed for pet safety. When selecting a pet seat belt, look closely at size limitations. Another option is a pet carrier with proper ventilation and extra space to allow your pet to move around. Although your pet might prefer the freedom of being loose in a vehicle, your pet can be injured in a crash by airbags or the force of impact.
  • Do not let your pet sit on your lap – This can distract you and put the pet in a dangerous position if you are in an accident. A passing vehicle, car horn or other distraction can startle your pet and cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
  • Adjust feeding time – Feed your pet and limit water intake a few hours before a long car ride to avoid it getting sick while on the road and to prevent it from needing to relieve itself at an inopportune time.
  • Do not allow your pet to travel with its head out of the window – While many dogs enjoy this, the wind can cause your pet to get grit or debris in its eyes. Flying rocks, sticks or other debris could also hit your pet and cause serious injury.
  • Take breaks – Give yourself and your pet a breather by making regular stops to stretch your legs. Take your pet for a walk on these breaks.
  • Do not put pets unrestrained in an open truck bed – If you are in an accident, your pet could get seriously injured or killed or harm someone else.
  • Do not leash your pet inside the vehicle – Unhook your pet’s leash so that it does not become a strangulation hazard. The leash can also wrap around various parts of the interior of the vehicle and cause an accident.

California Laws on Unrestrained Pets

California state law prohibits anyone from transporting an unrestrained animal in the open back of a vehicle, except for livestock or a dog for the purposes of ranching or farming. The animal must be tethered to the vehicle, in a cage or other container, or in a vehicle that has been retrofitted to prevent the animal from getting out.

There is no specific law in California that requires pet restraints for enclosed vehicles, but the driver is responsible for avoiding distractions while behind the wheel. An unrestrained pet in a car can make it difficult to maintain safe control of the vehicle, potentially causing serious injuries to the pet and passengers if a collision occurs.

Speak with an Experienced Attorney Today

If you were injured in an accident that may have been caused by a distracting pet, contact the Arnold Law Firm. Our knowledgeable attorneys can evaluate your case and determine if the other driver may have been acting in a negligent manner.

We can discuss your legal options during a free, no-obligation consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis, so there is no fee for our services unless we recover compensation for your case.

Fill out our online form or call (916) 777-7777 to find out how we can help.