What do you think is more distracting when driving – a child or a pet? If you thought pet, you are not alone.

The latest PEMCO Insurance Northwest poll found that more than 40 percent of Washington drivers agree pets are more distracting than children. Oregon drivers, on the other hand, find children and pets equally distracting.

About 50 percent of Northwest drivers admit they drive with unrestrained pets in the car, which can pose major threats to the driver, passenger and the pet. Unlike talking on a cell phone, driving with an unrestrained pet is not a primary offense in the Northwest, but the consequences of distraction are heightened when fur balls roam around the car freely.

“In a 30 mile per hour crash, a 60-pound dog can slam into you with 2,700 pounds of force which is enough to cause severe damage to you and your precious pet,” explained PEMCO spokesperson Derek Wing. “So just like humans, pets need their own special seat belts and other protections to keep everyone as safe as possible on the road.”

As law enforcement begins to crack down on all driving distractions, PEMCO Insurance is offering insight to help keep Northwest drivers and our furry friends safe. PEMCO recommends these tips to keep pets and drivers safe when hitting the road:

  • Restrain your pet(s). A well-ventilated carrier that is buckled in prevents injury to everyone in the car. A dog safety harness that attaches to a vehicle’s rear seat belt is another safe solution.
  • The backseat is best. Because pets face the same front-seat injury dangers as a small child, pets are safest in the back seat – especially when using a harness.
  • Keep heads inside the vehicle. Feeling the wind in their fur can come at a high cost. Not only can pets suffer injuries from flying road debris (even insects can seriously wound a dog’s eyes), they can develop respiratory trouble from forcing cold air into their lungs.
  • No riding in pickup beds. While it may be legal in some areas, it is still a bad idea. In a serious crash, even a crated dog has minimal protection.
  • Talk to a vet. A veterinarian may be able to suggest ways to ease the trip for any cats or dogs who are not happy travelers.