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Don't Take Selfies With Your Pet While Driving & Other Safety Tips

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TAMPA (CBSMiami) -- Taking a summer road trip is a family affair, and often times that includes pets. Almost two in five pet owners (38%) will bring their furry companions with them on vacations and road trips, according to a recent AAA Consumer Pulse™ survey. Yet more than one in three (37%) admit to never restraining their pet while riding in the car. This can lead to added distractions for the driver and increased dangers for all passengers, including pets.

Dangers of Traveling with Your Pet

Almost half (45%) of respondents said they do not use a pet restraint because they primarily take short trips with their pet. However, in the case of a crash, a loose pet will be thrown around the vehicle regardless of how far you are driving which is a danger to passengers as well as the animal.

Other reasons cited for not using a restraint include: my pet does not need it (40%), pet is not happy in crate or restraint (23%), pet wants to put their head out the window (21%), and 14 percent say their pet wants to sit in their lap.

"A 10-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph becomes a 300 pound projectile, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of force," said Amy Stracke, Executive Director, Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation. "This poses a serious risk of injury or even death for either your pet or anyone else in its path, reinforcing the importance of restraining your four-legged friend every time they are in the car."

More than one in ten (13%) pet owners admit to becoming distracted by their pet while driving. The majority of drivers admit to engaging in risky behavior while behind the wheel.

The most common activity cited (42%) was petting their animal. Other distracting behaviors drivers admitted to include allowing their pet to freely move from seat to seat (26%), allowing their pet to sit in their lap (22%), giving food or water (17%) and 12 percent have taken a photo of their pet while driving.

These behaviors can distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash. Using a pet restraint can aid in limiting distractions and help protect pets and passengers.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, taking your eyes off the road to attend to your pet for two seconds doubles your risk of a crash. "A restraint will not only limit distractions, but also protect you, your pet and other passengers in the event of a crash or sudden stop," Stracke said.

How to Travel With Your Pet

  • For safety reasons, pets should be confined to the back seat, either in a carrier or a harness attached to the car's seat belt.
  • To help prevent carsickness, feed your pet a light meal 4 to 6 hours before departing.
  • Do not give an animal food or water in a moving vehicle.
  • Never allow your pet to ride in the bed of a pickup truck. It's illegal in some states; he also can jump out or be thrown. Harnessing or leashing him to the truck bed is not advisable either: if he tries to jump out, he could be dragged along the road or the restraint could become a noose.
  • Avoid placing animals in campers or trailers.
  • Don't let your dog stick her head out the window, no matter how enjoyable it seems. Road debris and other flying objects can injure delicate eyes and ears, and the animal is at greater risk for severe injury if the vehicle should stop suddenly or be struck.
  • AAA recommends that drivers stop every 2 hours to stretch their legs and take a quick break from driving. Your pet will appreciate the same break. Plan to visit a rest stop every 4 hours or so to let him have a drink and a chance to answer the call of nature.
  • Be sure your pet is leashed before opening the car door. This will prevent her from unexpectedly breaking free and running away.
  • NEVER leave an animal in a parked car, even if the windows are partially open. Even on pleasant days the temperature inside a car can soar to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes, placing your pet at risk for heatstroke and possibly death. On very cold days, hypothermia is a risk. Also, animals left unattended in parked cars can be stolen.
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