Is your dog causing you to drive dangerously?

As adorable as it can be to see Fido stick his head out the window with his tongue flopping in the wind, unrestrained pets can be a serious safety issue that could lead to severe consequences. 

When dogs climb into drivers’ laps, or when they hop from one seat to the next, they take away from the attention a driver needs to have to safely operate their vehicle.

Why it's a safety concern for everyone 

In a recent study conducted by Volvo and The Harris Poll, 15 drivers and their dogs were observed for over 30 hours on the road. 

When pets were allowed to roam freely around the vehicle, incidents of unsafe driving behavior and driver distraction more than doubled. Stress levels in both dogs and humans were also reported to be higher than normal. The impact of a crash – or even a sudden slam of the brakes – could also cause a pet to become seriously injured, while also posing as a threat to other passengers in the vehicle.

According to pet advocacy group Bark Buckle UP, in a 35 m.p.h. accident, an unrestrained 60-pound dog can have an impact equivalent to a 2700-pound projectile. 

What the law says 

In Ontario, drivers can be charged with careless or dangerous driving for being preoccupied with their pups while operating their vehicles. 

Careless driving occurs when drivers endanger other people because of any distraction. Conviction can lead to six demerit points, up to $2000 in fines, a jail term of six months, and/or a license suspension for up to two years. 

Dangerous driving, on the other hand, is a criminal offence with heavier penalties including up to 10 years in jail for causing bodily harm, or 14 years of causing death. However, this doesn’t mean the end of all car rides for your dog.

Here are four things you can do to keep cruising with your canine without becoming distracted.

Put your dog in a crate or travel carrier

Perhaps the safest way for your dog to travel in the car, a durable, hard-sided crate will ensure safety and security for both canine and human. Smearing some peanut butter on the side of the crate or hiding some treats inside can also keep your pets busy while you focus on the road. 

If your dog is already crate trained, the familiarity of the crate will even help curb any travel anxiety. 

If your pup is riding in the back of your pickup truck, a crate is even more crucial. Not only will it prevent any chances of your dog trying to jump out, but section 111(2) of the Highway Traffic Act states all loads in motor vehicles must be secure, or risk the fine of $130. 

Doggy seat belts

These devices come in a variety of styles designed to meet the needs of different dogs. 

Well-behaved dogs will benefit most from harness seat belts, which work by securing a harness into the seatbelt latch. 

Younger and more active pups will benefit from a zipline harness, which gives dogs more freedom to move around in the backseat. 

Don’t go it alone 

As much as we’d like to consider our four-legged friends a person, consider bringing an actual human person to lend you a hand. 

Someone who is familiar and comfortable with your dog can help make sure your pup isn’t up to any mischievous antics while you drive. 

Ask a passenger to hold on to your dog when their head is out the window and remind them to give your pooch lots of pats to keep them entertained. It’s a win-win for everyone!

A busy dog is a happy dog

If you pup isn’t amused by what’s going on outside the window, consider bringing a dog toy that you know will keep him/her preoccupied for the duration of your drive. A toy stuffed with irresistible treats or a bone to gnaw on will be sure to help keep your dog entertained and distracted.

Our personal injury lawyers at Harris Law know how to get you the compensation you deserve if you’ve been in an accident because of a distracted driver. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.