Readers may not realize it, but Hawaii law prevents people from driving with their pet sitting on their lap. The purpose of this law is to reduce the number of car accidents caused by drivers distracted by a dog, cat or other animal causing a distraction. Pets often demand their humans’ attention and do not understand that a car accident could result.
As of now, Hawaii is the only state restricting pets in motor vehicles. But this form of distracted driving can be serious anywhere in the U.S., as a unique new study suggests. The study found that drivers, especially older people, were much more likely to cause a collision if they had a pet in the car.
The study examined the driving records of 2,000 people aged 70 and older. Researchers discovered that the drivers were twice as likely to get into an accident if they had a pet in the vehicle compared to when their cars were animal-free. The study, which was published in Accident Analysis and Prevention, is believed to be the first to look into the level of distraction pets cause their owners while they are driving, its senior author said. Forms of distracted driving like using a cell phone while behind the wheel to text or talk are being studied extensively, but studies like this one shows there are other ways drivers can split their focus, creating a danger to other people on the road.
If a pet owner’s dog or cat causes an accident by distracting his or her owner, that owner could be liable for any personal injuries suffered by others.
Source: AL.com, “Elderly drivers with dogs in the car are more likely to crash, study says,” Mike Oliver, May 2, 2013