AAA: Pets distract 1 in 5 drivers

Love your dog so much you bring Barky in the car while running errands? That love could be dangerous, AAA warns, if pets aren't restrained properly and kept in the back of the vehicle.

Nearly one in five pet owners take their hands off the steering wheel to stop dogs from scrambling into the front seat, a survey released today by AAA concluded.

Researchers found dog owners frequently abandon safety while driving with their best friends.

Dangerous practices include petting animals, restraining animals, giving treats and allowing pets to sit in the drivers' lap.

Although the Humane Society and law enforcement recommend restraining dogs in cars, the survey found only 16 percent of pet owners take such precautions.

AAA officials urged dog lovers to use a restraint every time they drive with their pet to reduce distractions and prevent injuries.

An unrestrained dog becomes a powerful projectile if a collision occurs — exerting 300 pounds of pressure in the case of a 10-pound dog in a 30 mph crash, AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher said.

A restraint will also help if a crash occurs by keeping a panicked dog from attacking emergency responders or running away.