According to a recent national driving survey, the majority of Americans enjoy riding with their furry best friends, even if it means dealing with pet-related distractions.
Results released in July from AAA and Kurgo Dog Products' 2011 Pet Passenger Safety Survey showed that 56 percent of respondents drove with their dog once a month in the last year.
Of these, 29 percent said they were distracted by their dog while driving, and nearly two-thirds (65 percent) admitted to engaging in at least one potentially distracting pet-related activity.
Some of these distractions included using hands or arms to prevent a dog from climbing into the front seat (23 percent), allowing the dog to sit in their lap (17 percent) or taking a photo of their dog (3 percent).
Chattanooga Veterinary Center veterinarian Mary Stanley said her 5-pound Chihuahua, Xena, caused her to rear-end another vehicle two years ago when the dog jumped from the back seat to the front. Now, Xena rides in the back in a car seat specifically designed to restrain dogs, Stanley said.
"They [dogs] are a distraction in a vehicle," she said. "They're as bad as a cell phone, if not even worse."
Here are some tips from AAA's PetBook guide to keeping dogs safe during car trips.
• Confine pooch to the back seat in a carrier or harness. Restraints will also prevent escape attempts when the door is opened on arrival.
• Prevent car sickness by feeding them a light meal four to six hours before departure, and don't try to provide additional food or water while the car is moving.
• Avoid placing dogs in a camper trailer. The truck bed isn't safe either, even if the animal is restrained.
• Keep Fido's head in the window. Flying debris or sudden stops pose serious risks to dogs enjoying the breeze.
• Just like their owners, animals need pit stops. Plan one every four hours or so.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...