Dogs can be a danger when it comes to Chicago car accidents caused by distracted driving

Driving with a pet in your vehicle is fun, but not a good idea. As a distracted driving habit, it ranks right up there with using a hand-held cell phone and can increase your risk of being involved in a serious or fatal Chicago car accident.

The Breaking News Center reports a new survey by AAA has found that two out of three dog owners routinely drive with their pets in the car.An 80-pound dog exerts more than one ton (2,400 pounds) of force during a 30 mph accidents. “As about 40 percent of Americans own dogs. We see this as an increasingly big problem,” said Beth Mosher, spokeswoman for AAA in Illinois.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates there are more than 77 million dogs in the United States — or about one dog for every four people.

While the site of a dog hanging its head out a car window is nothing new, the behavior of drivers with pets has grown increasingly dangerous, including drivers who keep a dog in their lap or who feed or water their pet while driving through traffic. Additionally, emergency crews report that dogs can become aggressive in protection of an owner in the wake of an accident. The Illinois State Police reports dogs have had to be shot in order to get medical aid to a vehicle’s occupants.

A survey sponsored by AAA and Kurgo, a company that makes pet restraint systems, found that 55 percent of owners who travel with their dogs admit to petting them while driving. One in five drivers held a dog in their lap.

Other dangerous habits included feeding or watering a dog or playing with a dog while the vehicle was in motion. Fewer than 1 in 5 travelers used a restraint system to limit distractions and ensure pet safety.

If you’ve been injured in an accident in the Chicago area, Abels & Annes offers free and confidential appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

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