Yes, Dogs Are a Driving Distraction, Too

By David Thomas  on August 20, 2010
We talk a lot about driving distraction on KickingTires, and recently I defended eating and adjusting the car stereo as two habits that shouldn’t be considered on the same level as text messaging or applying makeup. AAA is now trumpeting a distraction that has always riled me: driving with a dog on your lap.
The AAA study actually addresses dogs riding anywhere in the car, but it mostly focuses on when they get near the driver. Two-thirds of dog owners surveyed said they routinely pet, play and feed their dogs while driving, the study says.
AAA says that even a 10-pound dog can become a projectile in a crash exerting 500 pounds of pressure.

Full disclosure: I’ve driven with a 60-pound dog in SUVs and wagons, and with the second-row seats down, she’d like to come up to the front and say hi but mostly looked out the rear windows. I’ve also driven with my dog in the front passenger seat on moves when the rear is full of cargo. But I think there’s something fundamentally different when a smaller dog is sitting on a driver’s lap. Not only can it distract you because you want to pet it, but it can get in the way of trying to turn the steering wheel or access turn-signal stalks. Today, my dog is always in the back of one of my wagons because the kids use safety seats.

You can secure your pets in a typical sedan’s backseat with harnesses, or you can use a divider in a wagon or SUV. Some vehicles, such as the Honda Element, have a dog-friendly package with a travel kennel in the rear cargo area, complete with a circulating fan and water bowl.  


Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David