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Survey: Pets a distraction for drivers

Say what you will about the danger of distracted drivers on cellphones, those phones never will wave a bushy tail, demand a pat, bark at a squirrel or bite anybody.

Dogs will, and 31 percent of dog owners admitted in a national survey that their dogs are a distraction on the highway. Far more -- 59 percent -- conceded their dogs had been a distraction at least once, according to the survey by the American Automobile Association and Kurgo, a company which makes dog restraint devices.

(True dog lovers, who might admit to the occasional tail slap in the proboscis or wild barking, might protest as impossible the chances their best friend might bite them. Perhaps so, but dogs, like mileage, will vary.)

Dog owners love taking Fido for a ride almost as much as Fido likes sticking his furry little head out the window at 65 miles per hour, so while U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood may one day persuade Americans to put away the phone while driving, he's not about to suggest that the dog stay behind. The man is a realist.

People tend to be more protective of their dogs than all but their children, and covet the privacy of their relationship with them like mobsters count on their lawyers to keep quiet about their discussions.

So, there may be a gap between reality and what dog owners admitted when responding to the survey.

Half said they pet their dogs while driving, 20 percent let the dog sit in their lap, seven percent said they feed their dog while driving and five percent said they play with the dog.

"Millions of Americans recognize that dogs are wonderful companions and bring their favorite furry friend along on road trips, day trips and even day-to-day errands," said John B. Townsend II, of AAA. "However, in a vehicle this can mean added distractions for the driver."

-- Ashley Halsey III

By Michael Bolden  | August 19, 2010; 12:27 PM ET
Categories:  Driving  
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Cats and small dogs should be in a carrier. Large dogs should be in the backseat.

Posted by: jckdoors | August 19, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I've ridden in DC taxis and thought that the driver could use the help of a seeing eye dog.

Posted by: 123cartoon | August 19, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm... a study funded by a company that produces car seat harnesses for pets finds that most pet owners are distracted by their untethered pets on board. The reporter kindly provided a convenient link to the company's web site.

Does your editor understand that you are providing free advertising for Kurgo products?

Posted by: nidomhnail | August 19, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

This shouldn't even require a study: it's obvious.

Posted by: jiji1 | August 19, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Depends. Sometimes Zoe sits on my lap, sometimes she sleeps in the backseat. I don't necessarily find myself distracted...

Posted by: whitneyuevans | August 19, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Whitney - you don't think you're distracted by Zoe sitting on your lap while driving? What if she decides she wants some love? Or what happens when you have to brake suddenly when some richard cuts you off? Zoe could go flying thru the windshield.

I have a 15# border terrier (not a border collie). She wears a harness that buckles into the seatbelt. My precious kid always wore a seatbelt so why would I not put one on my precious dog, too?

Yeah, I talk to her, or pet her, just like I might talk to or hold hands with a human companion in the car. But I'm not distracted by the dog's movements about the interior of the car. I know she's as safe as she can be.

Posted by: PorthosAD | August 19, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Isn't having any being in your car a distraction?

I could have told you that for free.

Posted by: Mr_Blackinson | August 20, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

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