Many drivers probably don’t think twice about driving with their pets such as dogs or cats in the car, but they should, as this can be an extreme form of distracted driving.

Driving with unrestrained cats or dogs can be particularly dangerous for you, your passengers and your pets for a number of reasons. Primarily, failure to use proper restraints can have similar effects of drivers or passengers not wearing seat belts. We all know that its virtually impossible not to freak out when a cat flies across the car on a turn, or when the pet dog bounds from one row of seats to another. reports that “an unrestrained pet can become a deadly projectile in the event of a sudden stop or crash, causing serious injury, even death, to passengers.” provides a startling example as well, noting that “an unsecured, 25-pound dog in a 40 mph crash becomes a 1,000-pound mass (half a ton) flying uncontrollably inside the vehicle.” These statistics mean that a joy-ride with your pet could turn deadly if proper restraints aren’t used.

Driving with unrestrained cats or dogs in the car can be hazardous for another reason too. In the event of an accident, an unrestrained pet could run into traffic and potentially cause another accident or get hurt itself. There is also the possibility that your cat or dog could run away or attack an emergency responder.

While talking on the phone, texting and eating are all easily identifiable forms of distracted driving, so too is driving with an unstrained pet.  According to the New York Times, “Nearly 90 percent of pet owners say they travel with their pets…[and] 8 percent of drivers admit to driving with a pet in their lap.” When your cat or dog is not properly restrained – in a harness, crate, carrier or car seat – your attention may be shifted off the road and on to your pet.

Christina Selter, the founder of Bark Buckle UP, an organization that seeks to educate pet owners on the importance of properly restraining pets while driving, reasons that if you buckle yourself and your children up, you should do the same for your pets. Doing so ensures your safety as well as the safety of your pets and other drivers around you.