Does that dog in the window indicate a distracted driver?

It isn't unusual -- especially on a nice day -- to see a car rolling down the road with a dog hanging its head out of the window.Could that also be the warning sign of a distracted driver?

Maybe. It's definitely wise to be careful around that driver. You don't know if the dog's owner has his or her full attention on the road or is partially distracted by the pet.

More than 46 million American households have at least one dog, and more than half of their owners say that they travel with their furry buddies from time to time.

They'll also admit that the dogs are a distraction. Even though four out of five drivers surveyed agree that a dog that's loose in the car is a distraction, only 16 percent of dog owners actually use the proper pet restraints when they put their dogs in the car. Owners will admit to a wide range of distracted behaviors when their dogs are along for the ride, from petting their pals, passing them treats, playing with them and even taking a quick photo or two.

Not having a dog properly restrained in a moving car is a genuine safety hazard in its own right. A dog that's unrestrained can become a projectile if the car stops short. Further, small dogs could easily slip underfoot and interfere with the driver's ability to work the pedals. Large dogs could knock the steering wheel right out of a driver's hands or obscure the driver's vision if they suddenly decide they want to be oversized lap dogs -- although at least 17 percent of drivers with dogs admit that they just let their dog into their lap when they're driving.

None of these are safe driving behaviors, and they can all lead to sudden accidents. If you're unlucky enough to be in an accident with a driver that has a dog loose in their car, it's fair to be suspicious that distracted driving is a possibility. If you're seriously injured, consider contacting an attorney for help obtaining fair compensation for your injuries.

Source:, "Dog Travel Statistics," accessed April 30, 2017

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