Volvo and Harris Poll recently conducted a study that concluded that unrestrained pets in your car, particularly dogs, can be extremely distracting. That may sound pretty obvious, but what isn't as obvious is how much more distracting it is compared with having your dog properly harnessed or in a carrier. Twice as much, as it turns out, when it comes to how often and how long drivers are distracted.
The two organizations observed 15 drivers and their dogs over the course of 30 hours of driving. With the dog unrestrained, the organizations found the driver and dog doing something distracting and dangerous 649 times versus just 274 when the dog was belted in. And drivers were distracted for a total of 3 hours and 39 minutes while the dog was loose, and just 1 hour and 39 minutes with the restrained. Having the dog loose in the car also increased the heart rates of both the driver and the dog over the course of the drive. If the dog was properly restrained, the driver actually had a lower heart rate at the end of the drive than at the start.
Of course, reducing driver distraction is only one reason it's good to keep your dog in a safe carrier or strapped into a harness. As we've covered before, dogs and other pets can be easily injured or ejected from the car in a crash if they're loose. You'll also want to make sure you select a pet safety device that can withstand a crash, such as those approved by the Center for Pet Safety.