When we think about the causes of car accidents, we tend to focus on the big things—did another car run a light, or did a truck veer out of control? Sometimes, however, it is the little things that lead to major accidents and serious injuries.
In fact, very little things, such as insects, can cause much larger humans to react in shock, fear, or panic. But, even if fear is not a factor, animals like our beloved pets can cause us to act in a way that leads to a chain reaction accident or other types of collisions. Knowing how to protect yourself can help prevent or minimize the damage from accidents caused by insects or animals.
The Dangers of Driving with Pets
Studies show that pets can increase our level of contentment and decrease our stress levels. However, those benefits occur while pets are in our homes, not in our cars. Having a pet in the vehicle while you’re driving can be a major distraction, and anything that takes your attention away from the road can cause an accident.
According to a survey conducted by the American Automobile Association, 65% of drivers questioned admitted to being distracted by a pet while driving. Dangerous but common practices include:
- Petting a dog
- Allowing a pet to sit on the driver’s lap
- Giving treats to a pet
- Taking photos of a pet
Drivers admit to doing all of these things while driving!
In addition to the distractions posed by these voluntary interactions with our pets, there is considerable potential for pets to take actions on their own that distract drivers or impair their ability to drive safely. Dogs roaming loose in a vehicle, for instance, have been known to step on window switches to open windows unexpectedly, bump into gear knobs to shift vehicles into neutral while driving at high speed, and get under drivers’ legs interfering with their ability to reach the brake pedal. Unfortunately, these situations could lead to a collision with disastrous consequences.
How to Travel Safely with Pets
Just because pets pose serious risks in a vehicle does not mean you need to leave them behind when traveling. Taking the proper precautions can make a world of difference.
First, it is essential to restrain any animal while driving. Even the smallest dog or cat can be flung around a vehicle with hundreds of pounds of force if the vehicle is in a collision. Restraint could not only save you and your passengers from significant harm but also save the life of your pet.
Because the front airbag could be deadly if deployed in an accident, pets should be secured in the backseat. Options for dogs include specially-designed seatbelts, booster seats, hammocks, or ziplines, but all should be used in combination with a harness rather than a collar. Smaller dogs and other animals can travel safely in a crate that is strapped to the seat. Barriers that keep animals from attempting to jump over seats can also be helpful, but they should be used in conjunction with a seatbelt for the best protection.
In addition to restraining your pet, it is wise to take frequent breaks and avoid feeding too close to travel time. You can tell when your pet is uncomfortable, and that discomfort will be a distraction to you.
What About Animals Outside the Car? Preventing Wildlife Accidents in Fort Lauderdale
While you can control or limit the effect of your pet’s behavior, it is not possible to control the behavior of animals outside your car, particularly wildlife. Squirrels scamper right in front of your wheels. Birds will try to scavenge from the roads regardless of traffic. Deer can appear out of nowhere. What can you do? Being prepared mentally and knowing how to anticipate wildlife behavior can help prevent you from dangerous reactions that could lead to a collision.
Many animals are more active at dusk and dawn when it can also be more challenging to see clearly. Therefore, drive more slowly at these times, and give yourself more space behind the vehicle in front of you. Deer usually travel in herds, so if you see one near the edge of the road, be prepared for others. The same is true for birds.
Try to stay in control of your vehicle when you encounter wildlife. The evasive actions we take to avoid a collision with an animal often have far worse consequences, such as steering into a head-on collision with oncoming traffic. Many animals have quick reflexes that enable them to jump out of the path of your vehicle. Honk your horn in short bursts and flash your lights to break the mesmerizing effect that steady lights can have on animals.
If impact with an animal is unavoidable, brake to slow the vehicle but let up on the brakes just before impact. This makes it less likely that the impact will cause the hood to dip and force the animal through the windshield. The driver and passenger should also lean toward the door frame on the sides of the vehicle rather than toward the center of the car.
Tiny Insects Can Cause Big Problems
Tiny bugs can wreak havoc on the roads. It is not the insects themselves that cause problems so much as our reactions to them.
Phobia or fear of insects causes drivers to panic and make mistakes behind the wheel. Drivers swatting at bees or flies or jumping away from spiders cause thousands of accidents each year – some estimates put that figure as high as 650,000 annually.
To reduce the risk of insects causing an accident with your vehicle, drivers are advised to vacuum the interior regularly and throw out trash as soon as possible. Keeping windows closed while driving will keep insects from making a sudden entrance on the road. When insects appear, try to remain calm, take deep breaths, and retain control of the vehicle until you can pull over safely.
When another driver’s distraction causes you to suffer injuries in an accident, you have remedies available. To learn more about your options and protect your rights, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. Early action provides the most opportunities for collecting evidence of causation and enables your legal advisor to help avoid potential mistakes that could jeopardize a claim.