DELMAR-April is Distracted Driving Awareness month and Selective Insurance released a study that is reminding people that distracted driving means anything that diverts a driver’s attention, including pets, from safely operating their vehicle. In March 2023, the company commissioned a survey conducted by The Harris Poll to explore behavior while driving with furry friends and the distractions they may cause for drivers.
The survey showed that a majority of U.S. adults (86 percent) believe having an unrestrained dog in a moving vehicle can be a distraction to the driver. 89 percent of licensed drivers who owned a dog in the past 12 months said they have driven with their dog during that time. 74 percent drove with their dog several times a month or more often, while 65 percent had their pet in the car at least once a week.
“While K-9 passengers might not be as distracting as a typical ‘back seat driver,’ it’s important for drivers to be aware that anything that diverts our attention from operating a vehicle can be a distraction,” said Scott Smith, Vice President, Director of Safety Management, Selective Insurance. “Every American uses different driving behaviors and by understanding how these habits evolve through distracted driving research, we can help educate and empower our customers to be advocates for the safety of everyone on the road – including our beloved pet passengers.”
The research showed that 91 percent of drivers that drove with their dog in the prior 12 months had interactions with the pet while driving. These included: 50 percent pet their dog, 40 percent talked to them, 36 percent gave them food, water or a treat, 33 percent turned to look at them in the back seat.
For those who ever drove with a dog, 40 percent admit they engaged in a dangerous act while driving because of the dog being present. The survey showed that these acts included: 16 percent lacked awareness of another vehicle, 13 percent engaged in hard braking, 11 percent swerved out of a traffic lane and 10 percent did not use turn signals.
There are tips for driving safely with your dog:
Have your dog ride in the back seat and consider using a partition between the front seats.
A dog seatbelt, safety harness, or anchored crate will offer your dog some protection in an accident.
Plan ahead and identify rest stops along your route for breaks.
For emergency breaks, avoid the side of the road and instead look for a quiet parking lot.