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AAA: Canine travel companions can lead to dangerous distracted drivers

WEST SPRINGFIELD Millions of Americans recognize that dogs are wonderful companions and bring their furry friend along on road trips, day trips, and even day-to-day errands. However, in a vehicle, this can mean added distractions for the driver. A recent survey conducted by AAA and Kurgo, maker of pet travel products, asked dog owners how often they drove with their dogs and about their habits behind the wheel. The survey found that drivers not only love to bring Fido along, but they also engage in risky behaviors when man's best friend is along for the ride. For example:
  • Thirty one percent of respondents admit to being distracted by their dog while driving and 59 percent have participated in at least one distracting behavior while driving with their dog.
  • More than half 55 percent have pet their dog while driving.
  • One in five 21 percent allowed dogs to sit in their laps.
  • Seven percent give food and water to their dog while driving.
  • Five percent play with their dog while driving.
Such behaviors can distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash. An overwhelming 80 percent of respondents stated that they have driven with their pets on a variety of car trips including day trips, local errands and leisure trips, the pet store, dog parks and to work. However, only 17 percent use any form of pet restraint system when driving with their dog. "Restraining your pet when driving can not only help protect your pet, but you and other passengers in your vehicle as well," AAA Pioneer Valley vice president of membership, marketing and public relations Sandra Marsian said. "An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert 2,400 pounds of pressure. Imagine the devastation that can cause to your pet and to anyone in its path." There are a variety of reasonably priced products available to restrain dogs in a vehicle and to help dog owners reduce distractions their pets might cause while driving. There have been many recent innovations in this market from Kurgo and others to make these products more comfortable for the dog and convenient to use for the owner. AAA recommends owners utilize a restraint system anytime they are driving with their pet, even close to home.

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