Safety First

Study: Unrestrained pets cause heart rate spikes, increase likelihood of a fatal car crash

We now know how much of a distraction unrestrained pets cause, thanks to a new study from The Harris Poll and Volvo Car USA.

Photo by Getty Images

Fido may love to hold his head out the window and sniff every passing car and yard as you drive by, but this is not safe for you, him, or anyone else on the road. A new study provides quantifiable proof of the hazards of driving with an unrestrained pet.

Volvo Car USA and The Harris Poll conducted an online survey in March 2019 and an observational study from June-July 2019 to assess the impact of unrestrained pets – pets not restrained with a seat belt or harness or in a crate or carrier while in a moving vehicle. For the study, 15 licensed drivers who each drive with their dog at least 25 minutes per day were observed for an average of 2 hours each, for a total of about 30 hours of total study time.

Restrainted Pets seat belt safety harness Pets that were restrained while in the car proved less of a hazard to drivers, the study found.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

The dogs were restrained for 56 percent of the time and unrestrained the rest of the time.

The results of the survey and study were published in Volvo Reports: Keeping Pets Safe on the Road. The study found three reasons why not restraining your pet is detrimental.

It increases unsafe driving behaviors.

During the half of the study when the dogs were restrained, 16 hours 48 minutes, there were 274 instances of the dogs doing something unsafe such as putting their head out the window or climbing on the driver's lap. This comes out to an average of 16.3 instances of unsafe driving behavior per hour – about once every 3.5 minutes.

For 13 hours 12 minutes of observation time the dogs were unrestrained and racked up 649 instances of the dogs doing something unsafe – an average of 49.2 instances of unsafe driving behavior per hour, nearly once every 1.2 minutes.

This showed that unrestrained dogs were three times more likely to exhibit unsafe behaviors than restrained dogs while riding in a vehicle.

It increases driver distraction.

When not restrained, dogs can do things such as jumping from one seat to another, which often results in the driver focusing on their pet and not the road. Unrestrained dogs resulted in 3 hours 39 minutes of distracted driving over the course of the 13 hours 12 minutes (27.7% of the time).

Restraining dogs cut distracted driving to 1 hour 39 minutes over the course of the 16.8 hours (9.8% of the time).

The results indicated that drivers whose pets are unrestrained are 2.8 times more likely to be distracted are drivers whose pets are restrained.

Unrestrained pets Unrestrained pets cause a major distracted driving hazard, a new study has revealed.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

According to the National Highway Transportation Administration 3,000 people die each year from distracted driving. Erie Insurance, in conjunction with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, analyzed 2010 and 2011 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) crash data and found that a moving object (such as a pet) is one of the top ten distractions involved in fatal car crashes.

It increases stress on dogs and drivers.

According to the website Dogtime: "Puppies can have resting pulse rates of 160 to 200 beats per minute when they are born, which can go as high as 220 beats per minute at two weeks of age. Up to 180 beats per minute may be normal until a year of age. Large adult dogs can have a resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute, while small adult dogs can have a normal heart rate of 100 to 140 beats per minute."

When not restrained, dogs' heart rates were faster than their normal heart rates by 7 beats per minute. This may not seem like much, especially for puppies who already have high resting pulse rates, but why add stress to your pet unnecessarily?

Likewise, drivers were also more stressed when their dogs were not restrained. The average human heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute. When their dogs were not restrained, the drivers' heart rates increased by 28-34 per minute, as much as 1.5 times higher than normal.

Unrestrainted pets Volvo is one of the auto manufacturers now offering pet-specific restraint systems that can be purchased with and installed in a new vehicle.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

In a press release, Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, Staff Criticalist at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists, urges the importance of restraining your pets in the car.

"While pets roaming around the car can be cute and convenient, it poses a serious risk for both drivers and their pets, both in terms of causing distractions and increasing the chances of serious injury in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, in my field, we see the potential devastating consequences regularly, many of which can [be] avoided by simply ensuring our animals are safely secured."

The Volvo Car USA/The Harris Poll report found that "32% of pet owners have left a dog at home because they felt their car was not safe enough" and "77% of Americans says people don't vehicular dog safety seriously enough".

Lindsey Wolko took her pet's safety in the car seriously – she bought her dog Maggie a safety harness. Maggie was wearing this safety harness when Wolko was driving and had to brake suddenly, but the harness didn't work properly and Maggie was injured. Through this experience, Wolko was inspired to found The Center for Pet Safety (CPS), a non-profit research and consumer advocacy organization, in July 2011.

Volvo pet safety rear carrier Volvo's pet safety system is mounted directly to the frame of the vehicle giving it a high level of structural integrity.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

CPS crash tests pet car safety restraints. Restraints which meet CPS's standards are approved as CPS Certified. CPS has only third-party restraints on its list, yet some vehicle manufacturers are also creating pet car safety restraints.

Volvo has a line of pet safety accessories which includes a dog gate, dog harness, load compartment divider, and protective steel grille. These accessories integrate into the car's safety system. For each one of these accessories sold, Volvo donates $10 to The Petfinder Foundation, which promotes pet adoption.

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Nissan's ProPilot Assist technology debuted in 2018.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Technology is supposed to make us better drivers, right? A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicates that just the opposite is happening.

Adaptive cruise control is an upgraded version of traditional cruise control. It allows users to set a speed then it regulates the vehicles speed according to the traffic around it, within certain parameters. If the car in front of the vehicle slows down, the tech is designed to slow down the vehicle accordingly. If the car in front speeds up, the technology will speed up the vehicle up to the point of the set speed.

Some varieties of adaptive cruise control can slow the vehicle to a stop then start it moving again within a certain time period.

IIHS researchers have found that some divers are using adaptive cruise control as a tool for speeding, which the organization is concerned undermines the feature's potential safety benefits. The study found that drivers are substantially more likely to speed when adaptive cruise control or partial automation technology combines with lane centering tech.

"Adaptive cruise control does have some safety benefits, but it's important to consider how drivers might cancel out these benefits by misusing the system," says IIHS Statistician Sam Monfort, the lead author of the paper. "Speed at impact is among the most important factors in whether or not a crash turns out to be fatal."

An analysis of insurance claims data by the IIHS-affiliated Highway Loss Data Institute and other research indicate that adaptive cruise control may lower crash risk. To do this, they maintain a greater following distance as their default setting than most human driers would traditionally follow. Studies have also shown that they reduce the frequency of passing and other lane changes.

IIHS describes its study methodology:

"To find out the impact ACC and lane centering technologies have on speeding, IIHS researchers analyzed the behavior of 40 drivers from the Boston metro area over a four-week period using data collected by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Advanced Vehicle Technology Consortium. These drivers were provided with a 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque outfitted with ACC or with a 2017 Volvo S90 equipped with ACC and Pilot Assist — a partial automation system that combines ACC with lane centering. The data suggest that drivers were 24 percent more likely to drive over the speed limit on limited-access highways when those systems were turned on. The amount by which they exceeded the speed limit when they did speed was also greater when they were using the driver assistance features compared with driving manually.

"Whether driving manually or using ACC or Pilot Assist, speeders exceeded the limit by the largest margin in zones with a 55 mph limit. In these areas, speeders averaged about 8 mph over the limit, compared with 5 mph in 60 mph and 65 mph zones. ACC also had the largest impact on how much they exceeded the limit in zones where it was 55 mph. In these slower zones, they averaged a little more than 1 mph higher over the limit when using ACC or Pilot Assist than they did driving manually.

"That 1 mph increase may not sound like much. Leaving aside any other effect these features may have on crash risk, however, it means ACC and partial automation users are at about 10 percent higher risk of a fatal crash, according to a common formula for calculating probable crash outcomes. This study did not analyze real-world crashes."

"Driving faster is more dangerous," says Monfort. "You can't argue with physics."

IIHS is quick to point out that their study did not account for several other factors that have been shown to reduce crash frequency and severity.

The organization also chose to test using vehicles that only allow drivers to bump their selected speed up or down by 5 mph increments at the touch of a button, which they say may explains why users exceeded the legal limit by larger amounts.

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The state of Missouri doesn't have the worst roads and bridges in the U.S., but it doesn't have the best either.

Photo by Edwin Remsberg/Getty Images

New analysis by QuoteWizard, a part of the Lending Tree family, reveals how many states have sub-part infrastructure and how the poor condition of those roadways is effecting vehicles.

The bad news is that America's roadways are crumbling. You knew that if you frequently drive anywhere north of what automakers refer to as the Sunshine Belt. QuoteWizard analyzed new numbers from the Federal Highway Administration and found that deteriorating roads and bridges cost the average driver $556 every year. In the states with the worst roads, those conditions lead to almost $1,000 per year in road repair costs.

According to QuoteWizard, the high costs are "a direct result of a combination of what the FHA considers non-acceptable roads and poor bridge decks". Each state was ranked according to its complete score in the following categories:

  • Percentage of non-acceptable roads
  • Square miles of poor bridge deck
  • Cost per motorist that is allocated towards repairing bridge and road infrastructure

States are ranked 1 to 50, with 1 being the worst overall road infrastructure and 50 being the best overall road infrastructure. Scroll down to see the full results.

No. 1 - Rhode Island

Providence, Rhode Island

Photo by Yiming Chen/Getty Images

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 50%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 23.0%
Cost per motorist: $823

No. 2 - Mississippi

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 27%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 4.0%
Cost per motorist: $820

No. 3 - West Virginia

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 31%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 16.1%
Cost per motorist: $723

No. 4 - Connecticut

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 34%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 10.2%
Cost per motorist: $676

No. 5 - Maryland

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 27%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 3.4%
Cost per motorist: $356

No. 6 - Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii

Photo by Dallas and John Heaton/Getty Images

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 43%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 2.4%
Cost per motorist: $764

No. 7 - California

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 35%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 7.2%
Cost per motorist: $862

No. 8 - Washington

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 27%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 6.1%
Cost per motorist: $643

No. 9 - Pennsylvania

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 27%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 8.2%
Cost per motorist: $610

No. 10 - Missouri

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 25%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 9%
Cost per motorist: $699

No. 11 - Texas

Austin Texas

Photo by Getty Images

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 22%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 1.1%
Cost per motorist: $682

No. 12 - Louisiana

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 25%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 9%
Cost per motorist: $624

No. 13 - Indiana

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 23%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 3.9%
Cost per motorist: $480

No. 14 - Illinois

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 20%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 12.3%
Cost per motorist: $586

No. 15 - Arizona

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 21%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 1.4%
Cost per motorist: $576

No. 16 - New Mexico

Albuquerque New Mexico

Photo by Milenny/Getty Images

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 32%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 4.7%
Cost per motorist: $768

No. 17 - Massachusetts

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 25%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 11.5%
Cost per motorist: $627

No. 18 - New Jersey

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 47%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 7.4%
Cost per motorist: $703

No. 19 - New York

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 27%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 10%
Cost per motorist: $509

No. 20 - Colorado

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 22%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 5.2%
Cost per motorist: $637

No. 21 - Utah

Salt Lake City Utah

Photo by Gary Weathers/Getty Images

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 22%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 0.8%
Cost per motorist: $694

No. 22 - Ohio

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 16%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 3.6%
Cost per motorist: $544

No. 23 - Deleware

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 16%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 5.4%
Cost per motorist: $486

No. 24 - North Carolina

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 14%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 8.4%
Cost per motorist: $336

No. 25 - South Carolina

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 18%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 6.7%
Cost per motorist: $557

No. 26 - Nevada

Valley of Fire Nevada

Photo by Reinier Snijders/EyeEm/Getty Images

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 15%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 1%
Cost per motorist: $536

No. 27 - Virginia

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 14%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 3.7%
Cost per motorist: $430

No. 28 - Maine

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 23%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 7.4%
Cost per motorist: $529

No. 29 - Wisconsin

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 18%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 4%
Cost per motorist: $736

No. 30 - Minnesota

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 16%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 3.3%
Cost per motorist: $542

No. 31 - Michigan

Detroit Michigan

Photo by Mike Kline/Getty Images

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 21%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 7.6%
Cost per motorist: $645

No. 32 - New Hampshire

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 20%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 6.9%
Cost per motorist: $525

No. 33 - Alaska

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 17%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 7.7%
Cost per motorist: $450

No. 34 - Arkansas

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 7%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 4.5%
Cost per motorist: $543

No. 35 - Vermont

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 17%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 4%
Cost per motorist: $418

No. 36 - Kansas

Topeka Kansas

Photo by Peeterv/Getty Images

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 12%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 2.8%
Cost per motorist: $591

No. 37 - Tennessee

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 5%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 4.2%
Cost per motorist: $194

No. 38 - Oregon

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 10%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 3.3%
Cost per motorist: $268

No. 39 - Florida

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 13%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 1.8%
Cost per motorist: $351

No. 40 - Kentucky

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 10%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 5%
Cost per motorist: $434

No. 41 - Oklahoma

Oklahoma City


Photo by Getty Images

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 7%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 5.3%
Cost per motorist: $900

No. 42 - Alabama

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 11%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 2.5%
Cost per motorist: $506

No. 43 - Montana

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 12%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 7.8%
Cost per motorist: $472

No. 44 - South Dakota

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 14%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 9.4%
Cost per motorist: $563

No. 45 - Georgia

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 7%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 2%
Cost per motorist: $275

No. 46 - Nebraska

Omaha Nebraska

Photo by John Coletti/Getty Images

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 11%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 5.3%
Cost per motorist: $466

No. 47 - Iowa

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 8%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 9.8%
Cost per motorist: $362

No. 48 - Idaho

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 4%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 5%
Cost per motorist: $427

No. 49 - North Dakota

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 6%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 4.6%
Cost per motorist: $479

No. 50 - Wyoming

Percentage of non-acceptable roads: 5%
Square miles of poor bridge deck: 7.4%
Cost per motorist: $356

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