Distracted driving causes a lot of accidents. One area that few people consider when thinking about distracted driving is the ways in which driving with pets can lead to a problem. A large pet in your lap could make it harder to see the road. A barking dog in the cabin can startle or annoy a driver. A loose pet behaving badly can divert a driver’s attention. A pet jumping around can decrease visibility through the rear window.
AAA conducted a survey a few years ago to find out how much of a distraction it is to drive with a pet. According to this survey, 56% of pet dog owners had driven with their dog at least once a month in the previous year; 52% petted their dog while driving; 23% had used their hands or arms to restrain their dog while braking the car; 19% had taken their hands off the steering wheel to prevent the dog from climbing into the front seat. Other common risky behaviors included taking pictures of dogs while driving, giving the dog food or treats while driving, and allowing the dog to sit in their lap while driving.
In Massachusetts, there is no law against driving with an unrestrained pet in the vehicle cabin with you. However, riding with a pet dog in your lap violates Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 13, which reads, in part, “No person, when operating a motor vehicle, shall permit to be … in the vehicle or … about his person anything which may interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle.” A dog resting on your lap could certainly interfere with your steering.
Restrain your pet while driving
According to the survey, 84% of drivers with pet dogs did not restrain their dogs with any kind of belt or other device. This is particularly dangerous. The most common excuse drivers gave was that their dog was calm as opposed to excitable so they did not feel the dog needed restraint. Nonetheless, an unrestrained, calm dog will fly into a windshield or the back of a seat with the same amount of force as an excitable dog if a driver has to brake suddenly. Dogs are simply unable to brace themselves during extreme driving situations.
An unrestrained 10-pound dog will hit a driver with 300 pounds of pressure in a 30 mile-per-hour collision and an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of pressure, according to Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, AAA National, Traffic Safety Programs manager. By the way, it only takes between 500 and 600 pounds of pressure to crush a human skull.
If you allow your dog to ride in the bed of a pickup truck without restraint, your dog is more likely to die in any collision, and the dog could easily fly into another person’s windshield injuring the occupants. It is actually illegal in Massachusetts. Before a dog may ride in the bed of a pickup truck, the side and tail racks must be at least 46 inches high and the dog must be cross tethered (meaning that he is attached by leashes to both sides of the pickup truck).
Contact a personal injury Attorney
It’s normal to have a lot of questions after a car accident. For answers, try our Frequently Asked Questions page. You can also contact the law firm of Peter Ventura in Worcester, MA to protect yourself if your pet has caused an accident. We know the law and can help you.
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