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Distracted driving not limited to cell phones and text messages

We have all heard the warnings about talking on a cell phone or sending a text message while driving. Over the last few years, there have been cell phone and texting-while-driving bans introduced across the country with the hopes of reducing the number of auto accidents caused by distracted drivers.

To that list of driving distractions, we can also add the family pet. While we may smile and chuckle when we see a dog running around inside a car and sticking its head out the window, a dog can also serve as serious distraction. Many drivers allow their dogs to sit on their laps or walk across the seat where they might obstruct the driver's view or prevent them from reacting quickly to a dangerous situation.

A growing number of jurisdictions are looking into bans on driving with a loose dog in a car. In fact, such as ban was passed in California a few years ago, but then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to sign the bill into law.

Right now, Hawaii appears to be the only state with a law banning unrestrained dogs from riding in a car. Oregon is said to be considering passage a law that would allow fines for drivers that allow dogs on their lap while driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not keep records of accidents caused by having an unrestrained pet in a car, but they purportedly count pets as a distraction to drivers much like misbehaving children and disruptive passengers.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you may want to speak to an attorney to help determine if you might have a claim for compensation.

Source: Associated Press, Safety Agencies: How risky is that doggy in the window, Sue Manning 1/23/10

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