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.