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Dog leaning out a car window

Pets in the vehicle are more common during the holiday season and especially during summer vacations from school. While you might not think much of your family furry friend sitting in the car beside you, what you have is a high risk for a catastrophic accident that will not only injure your pet, but you and any other passengers you have along for the ride.

According to data from AAA, pet travel is common. In fact, 56 percent of motorists have driven with their pet in their car at least once in the month, and more than half admitted to not looking at the road and spending more time looking at their pet.

Your pet companion may go with you everywhere you go, but dogs and other pets in the vehicle must be restrained. Unrestrained parts are a heavy distraction – almost as bad as texting and driving.

How Would a Pet Distract Chicago Drivers?

Think about how you act when your furry friend is in the passenger seat next to you or even in the cargo hold. They are quite the distraction when you consider how they affect your driving, including:

  • You take your hands off the steering wheel. One-way pets distract their owners is that an owner needs to remove their hands from the steering wheel to either hold the dog or pet back, pet them, or hand them a toy to keep them distracted.
  • You take your eyes off the road. When you have a pet in the car, you might look at your pet or see where the pet is roaming in your car, which means your view of the road is minimal.
  • You no longer have your mind on the task of driving. Even if your hands and eyes are where they should be while driving, you now are taking your attention away from the road. You are more concerned with the dog’s pacing, jumping, scratching, barking, and whining.

Drivers Are Distracted by Pets in the Car and Do Not Even Notice It

The amount of distractions that a pet creates while on the road is astounding and yet many motorists still do it, mostly because they do not realize that they are distracted.

Not only do more than 84 percent of drivers say that they have their pets along for a road trip, but sadly only 16 percent restrain those dogs while driving.

Worse, 17 percent allow their pet to sit on their lap while driving, and 13 percent have admitted to giving their pets treats and water while operating a vehicle. Out of those in the survey, another four percent admitted to playing with their dog while driving.

Unrestrained Pets Are a Danger to Themselves and Others

Very few motorists use pet restraints for their animals inside the vehicle. One of the best ways to minimize distractions from our pets is to restrain them while driving. While you might have numerous reasons for not restraining your pet, most of these reasons have to do with your perception of your pet’s temperament. You might assume your pet is calm; therefore, they do not need to be restrained. Other times, you might assume a quick trip down the street is not worth the effort.

A pet restraint system not only limits the distraction, but can also protect your pet in the event you are in an accident. Anything that is unrestrained in a vehicle has the chance of violently moving through that vehicle, which in turn means that you or a passenger could be severely injured if struck by the pet.

Just some reasons you should consider a pet restraint system in your car include:

  • Limited Distractions – When your pet is restrained in the back of the vehicle, you do not have to worry about them jumping up front, distracting them, or moving around the vehicle making you keep your eyes and attention on them and not the road.
  • Airbags are Deadly for Pets – Did you know that an airbag can strike your pet with enough force to cause fatal damage? By restraining them in the back seat away from airbags, they are less likely to suffer these catastrophic injuries.
  • Variety of Systems Available – You do not have to physically seat belt your dog into the car to keep it safe. Today you have numerous options for barrier systems, including seatbelts, cages, and other restraints.

Some states are now taking notice of the dangers of having pets in the vehicle. More states are enacting laws that would require you to not only have a pet in the back of the vehicle, but restrained. Take Hawaii for example, they are making it illegal to have your pet on your lap while driving.

The Force of an Impact with an Unrestrained Pet in the Car

Have you ever considered how much force a pet would be in a motor vehicle accident if they were to strike you? A dog that is unrestrained creates an incredible amount of force.

For example, a 10-pound unrestrained dog will generate up to 500 pounds of force in a 50 mile per hour impact. That is a small dog with a catastrophic amount of damage. Worse, a large breed dog that weighs 80 pounds can generate up to 2,400 pounds of force in a 30 mile per hour crash; therefore, driving down the street in your neighborhood to the store with your dog in the car could lead to a fatal accident.

Tips for Safer Driving with Your Pet

If you do need to travel with a pet, you should not have to worry about an accident harming you, your passengers or your furry friend.

Instead, there are ways to protect yourself and your loved ones.

  • If possible, leave your pet in the rear of the vehicle in a compartment that is separate from driving, such as the cargo area of an SUV.
  • If using a pet carrying case, make sure that you seatbelt the case into place so that the pet’s cage does not move around with the vehicle.
  • Make sure you give your dog water and exercise before getting into the car. This will limit any distractions from your pet because they are hungry.
  • Do not let your dog stick his or her head out of the window at any time.
  • If your pet is in your truck’s cargo area, be sure that they are secured and that they cannot jump from the truck.
  • Give your dog a snack a few hours before the trip to avoid the distraction of a sick pet.
  • Never allow your pet to sit on your lap or be in the front seat while you are driving.
  • If you and your pet are separated, make sure that you have identification tags on your pet so that others can identify them and contact you.
  • Avoid unnecessary anxiety for your pet, which can lead to excessive barking and whimpering by taking shorter trips before a longer one – helping your pet become accustomed to longer rides in the car.
  • Never leave your pet inside the vehicle unattended – even if it is only for a few minutes.
  • Do not allow your pet to have a leash on in the bed of a truck even while parked, because this poses a strangulation hazard for your dog.

Your Options When You Are Injured in a Vehicle by a Loose Pet

When you are riding in a vehicle and you are injured by an unrestrained pet that belongs to the driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

You may suffer broken bones, head trauma, or internal organ damage from being struck by an unrestrained animal in the car; therefore, you should receive compensation for those injuries.

Some damages you may be able to receive from the driver include:

  • Medical Expenses: Including your surgeries and hospitalizations, as well as future medical costs from the injury itself.
  • Property Damage: Any property damage caused by the animal – including damage to the vehicle if the animal caused the accident – might be covered through a personal injury claim.
  • Lost Wages: After a serious motor vehicle accident, you will likely have lost wages due to the time you take off work for recovery. If you are permanently disabled, then you will have future earnings loss as well.

Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney Regarding Your Accident

If you or a loved one was injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. To explore those options and exercise your rights, speak with an injury attorney.

The team at Malman Law right here in Chicago can help you with your case. Our attorneys know what you and your family members are going through and we want to help you receive the compensation you need for your medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Speak with us now during a free consultation by calling 888-307-7068 or by contacting a team member online.

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  • Steven Malman was selected to the list. The list is issued by the National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys. A description of the selection methodology can be found at

  • Steven Malman was selected to the list for 2018-2019.

  • Only the top 100 trial lawyers from each state or highly-populated regions of certain states who are actively practicing in civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense law are eligible for invitation. Invitees must demonstrate superior qualifications, leadership skills, and trial results as a legal professional. The selection process for this elite honor is based on a multi-phase process based upon objective and uniformly applied criteria which includes peer nominations combined with third party research.

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  • As the founder of Steven J. Malman and Associates, P.C., Attorney Steven Malman has 21 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, premises liability, construction and workers’ compensation cases. Mr. Malman is one of Chicago’s leading authorities on personal injury law and has taken a special interest in defending the elderly from neglect and abuse. He has personally handled over 10,000 cases successfully, and collected hundreds of millions dollars for his clients.

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