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Posted: July 6th 2020


We've all seen it. Pampered pups perched in the passenger seat. Head out the window and ears flapping in the wind. But their humans are not doing those dogs any favour. In fact, their owners are threatening their pets' safety, their own safety and that of every driver they meet.

Unrestrained dogs in cars make for distracted driving. Driving is a huge responsibility and demands our full attention. No matter how well behaved you hope your dog is, we know our fur babies are complete attention hounds. Unrestrained pets in the car pose a direct challenge to our ability to drive in safety.

The AAA, the American sister of our CAA driving club, hammers it home. Many drivers just don't get that their dogs are distracting them behind the wheel.

In a survey, AAA discovered that more than 50% of dog owners have pet their dog while driving. Almost 20% of drivers allowed their dog to sit in their lap. Nearly 15% of drivers shared that they give food or treats to their dogs behind the wheel and nearly 5% admitted they play with their dog while driving.

The big reveal is that almost 85% of drivers bring their dogs along on road trips. But only 16% of drivers use any kind of pet restraint system.

Indulgent and loving dog owners are distracted drivers when they fail to properly restrain their pet and fail to keep their eyes and hands on the wheel.

Just How Much Damage Can Your Pup Really Do?

1. Two Second Rule. The US NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) reminds us that it only takes 2 seconds of unfocused driving to increase the risk of a car crash. Dogs are just as needy as their humans and crave attention. Chances are your dog will always demand more than two seconds of your attention. When you pay attention to your dog, you fail to pay attention to the road. It's that simple. And a dog on lap or underfoot is a crash just waiting to happen;

2.Dog as Projectile is a distinct risk. If you stop suddenly, your unrestrained dog becomes a projectile causing severe injury to you, your passengers as well as your pet. AAA surveys make the risk plain. An unrestrained 10 pound dog can generate 500 pounds of force in a 50-mph crash. An 80 pound dog generates 2,400 pounds of force in a 30-mph crash. That force is going to hit somebody or something in your car with deadly results for all involved. That's scary;

3.Pet Carriers, if properly sized and safely stowed, can secure your dog. But if you don't properly secure and tied down that carrier, it's added bulk and weight adds to the danger in a crash;

4.Your Indulgence Will Kill Your Pet. Airbags will kill your dog. The force of impact in a crash will also likely kill your dog or cause such severe injuries that your pet will suffer needlessly and need to be put down; and

5. Your Indulgence May Seriously Injure Or Kill You and Other Drivers. Distracted Driving is a killer. We know that. Don't let your affection for your dog override your responsibility to yourself and to innocent drivers on the road. Love your dog enough to drive responsibly and in safety for your pet and for all.

If You've Been Injured?

If you have been seriously injured in a car crash and suspect the at fault driver was driving distracted by his dog, then let the investigating officer and the collision reporting centre know. Get the timely medical care that you need for your injuries. Then call an experienced injury lawyer.

Although smart phones and hand held devices dominate most distracted driving offences, distracted driving is not just caused by devices. And while the investigating officer determines the charge, or if a charge should be laid at all, dog led distracted driving may be considered careless driving if the facts warrant. If that careless driving caused bodily injuries or death, the penalties are severe. In addition, although our Ontario Dog Owners' Liability Act imposes strict liability on a dog owner for damages specifically resulting from a bite or attack, it also permits a civil proceeding in our courts against a dog owner if that owner did not exercise reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from behaving in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons. While a car crash injury may be a bit remote for that section, the Act nonetheless underscores that dog owners are fully responsible at law for the harmful actions of their pets. Because in the end, the buck stops with the human.

Call your experienced local injury lawyer and find out where you stand.

Dog led distracted driving is everyone's concern especially when it hurts you and your family.

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