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Norwalk Daily Voice serves Norwalk & Rowayton

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Make Your Pet a Safe Passenger

Referring to his oversized lab-shepherd mix, college junior Ethan Ames said: "Well, he couldn't sit on my lap while I drive for obvious reasons." A graduate of Staples High School, Ethan states his dog Arlo is a regular passenger in his car, and he admits to to turning around "now and then, to make sure everything's okay."

Even if you're just heading out for a quick spin to the market it's always fun to take Fido (or Arlo) for a road trip. Besides, how can you resist that pleading and adorable expression? But a recent survey conducted by the American Automobile Club of America (AAA) asked pet-owning drivers about their behind-the-wheel habits, and the results are bark-worthy.

While 31 percent of respondents admitted to being distracted by their dog while driving, 59 percent participated in at least one distracting behavior while driving with their dog. Among those "distracting behaviors" were: petting their dog while driving (more than half of respondents) and allowing their dog to sit in their lap (one of five respondents). Other potentially dangerous behaviors include giving food and water to their dog (seven percent) and playing with their dog (five percent) while driving.

According to the survey, even quick turns of the head -- which divert a driver's eyes from the road for even a few short seconds -- are potentially deadly. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash.

Further, 80 percent of the survey's respondents stated they had driven with their pets on a variety of car trips including day trips such as local errands, the pet store, dog parks and to work. But only 17 percent reported using any form of pet restraint system when driving with their dog. Use of a pet restraint system can aid in limiting distractions and help protect your pet and you.

"A pet seatbelt?" asked Ethan. The next thing you know, he added, "dogs will be using the GPS."

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