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Is your pet distracting you when you drive?

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While many in Tennessee may associate distracted driving with the use of hand held cellphones, anything that takes focus away from the road increases the risk of an accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distraction was a factor in nearly 3,000 crashes in 2013. A driver who interacts with a pet and takes eyes, hands and concentration off the task of driving may engage in just as much risk as a driver who sends a text message.

Even calm pets that ride in the front passenger seat may cause brief visual distractions for drivers. A Tennessee injury attorney may have read a recent study by Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety revealing that even glancing away from the road for two seconds causes a significant disruption in attention. Researchers found that the impact of the short glance lasts longer because the eyes do not refocus on the road immediately, reducing the driver's ability to identify hazards.

Drivers admit to frequent pet interactions

According to a survey conducted by the American Automobile Association and Kurgo, a manufacturer of pet products, pet owners often bring their animals with them in the vehicle. In fact, 56 percent of those surveyed indicated that they took their dog for a car ride once or more each month during the preceding year, which would not be surprising to a Tennessee injury attorney. The most common interactions respondents admitted to include the following:

  • Petting
  • Restraining
  • Holding
  • Feeding

More than 15 percent of the survey participants confessed that they took a hand off the wheel to reach into the back seat while driving to interact with the animal. Three percent of the survey participants admitted to taking photos of their dogs from behind the wheel.

Restrain pets for safety

According to AAA, in addition to distracting the driver, an unrestrained pet can cause serious injuries or fatalities in what would otherwise be a relatively harmless incident. When the vehicle is moving at 30 miles per hour and stops suddenly, a 10-pound dog creates about 300 pounds of force. This is enough to injure or kill the animal and anyone it comes in contact with.

When an individual is injured in an accident caused by a pet distraction or sustains an injury in a vehicle where there is an unrestrained pet, compensation may be available to cover the costs that occur as a result. A Tennessee injury attorney may be able to provide legal representation to ensure that a victim receives all they are entitled to by law.

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