January 1, 2019, the more stringent Distracted Driving law came into effect with fines that are larger and escalate with each offence. Along with these fines, demerit points are given, licenses are suspended, and the list goes on. It is important that we are not distracted by our cell phones when driving but remember, there are other types of distractions which can be equally dangerous.
Being a veterinarian working in a companion animal hospital, pets are transported to our facility for care. The majority of pets (dogs and cats in our practice) are driven by family members. They arrive at our hospital either on a leash or in a carrying kennel of some design. Occasionally we will watch as families drive up with dogs on the driver’s lap and cats sitting on the seat top by the headrest. I believe this mode of pet transportation can be as distracting as cell phone use.
When we travel with our children, they are firmly secured in baby seats, booster seats and with seat belts. This is for their safety as well as reducing any distraction for their parents. It is equally important to have our pets safely secured for their and our protection. From a legal point of view, they could be classified as distractions if not secured.
Consider driving with a dog on your lap or loose in a vehicle. If your dogs are like mine, they want attention and will sometimes do anything to get it. Cats can be even more demanding. Imagine if you will, driving and having to constantly or even once in a while, pay attention to a pet in the front seat. When you are doing this your attention is off the road creating a dangerous situation for you, your pet and anyone else in the vehicle.
There have not been any instances of people being charged with this type of distracted driving, yet. I am sure there will be a first so, for the sake of your pet, those in the car and other drivers on the road, please secure your pets in the vehicle. You can do this with either a carrying kennel or a seat belt. Keep everyone safe.
Written by: North Hill Animal Hospital