Connecticut Traffic Accidents and the Risk of Driving with Pets

May 2013

For children, families and seniors, a pet can be an important part of the family and a daily companion. Many seniors who live on their own outside of nursing homes or residential communities have pets and studies have even shown that having a dog can extend your life for as long as seven years. Unfortunately, however, new data shows that bringing your pet in the car can be very dangerous. This is true for people of all ages, but especially for senior citizens.

Our New Haven, CT accident attorneys know that bringing a pet in the car with you can be a distraction, especially if the pet is on your lap or is unrestrained in the vehicle. Now, a recent study shows that a pet in the car with you can significantly increase your accident risk.

Pets are a Dangerous Distraction

Highway safety advocates advise that it is dangerous for a driver to look away from the road for more than two seconds. This means that anything in your car that causes you to look away for longer than two seconds will increase the chances of a traffic crash occurring. Cell phones are one of the most common distractions and a lot of attention is paid to talking and texting as a primary cause of preventable traffic collisions. However, having a pet in the car can also cause you to look away for at least two seconds.

For seniors, any type of distraction in the car that causes an increase in cognitive or physical workload can be risky because older drivers have slower response times and cognitive performance than younger drivers. This means that while a pet in the car can be risky for anyone, the situation is even worse for a senior who will take longer to focus again after being distracted and who will be slower to respond if something unexpected happens on the road.

To get more information on how a pet in the car might affect a senior’s car accident risk, researchers at the University of Alabama-Birmingham interviewed more than 2,000 seniors who lived on their own rather than in a nursing home or assisted living community.  NBC News reported that a total of 691 of the seniors who were interviewed had pets, and more than half with animal companions said they took their pets with them at least occasionally when driving. When pets went along for the ride, they usually sat either in the front passenger seat or on the back seat.

These pet co-pilots unfortunately had a major impact on whether a senior would be involved in an accident In fact, the crash rate for seniors who had a pet in the car was around double the accident rate of those who had no pets or who said that they never drove with pets.

This data shows that seniors need to be very careful when traveling with animals. Restraining the animals properly in the vehicle could be one important way to reduce the accident risk.

Most people–including 83 percent of the seniors surveyed–agree that riding with an unrestrained animal is dangerous. Yet, only 16 percent of those who traveled with their pets said they used restraints. If more seniors would crate or otherwise secure their animals when driving, then there may not be such an increase in the accident risk associated with traveling with a four-legged member of the family.

Contact the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone & Morelli, by calling  1-800-WIN-WIN-1 or 100 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, CT 06105.

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