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Beloved pets can cause horrific accidents

People travel with their pets all of the time. We've all seen a dog sticking his head out of a truck window, tongue hanging out in the wind. Since 43.3 million American households have pets, there are plenty of animal companions to go around.

However, traveling with them in the car can put other drivers in danger. Pets, especially when they're not restrained, could cause accidents. Below are a few key statistics to be aware of:

-- 84 percent of drivers don't restrain dogs when they have them in the car.-- 60 percent of drivers said their pets would distract them while they drove.-- 52 percent of those with dogs in the car admitted to petting them and driving.-- 13 percent would give treats and/or food to the dog, while 17 percent just had the dogs on their laps.-- 4 percent actively played with dogs in the car while driving. That may be a small percentage, but it's still important considering how playing with a dog is such a monumental distraction for any driver.

A lot of research has been done on distractions, and things like smartphones and text messages tend to dominate the headlines. These are huge issues, but it's important to remember that almost anything can be a distraction in the car -- and any distraction can lead to an accident.

Those who have been injured in crashes with distracted drivers may endure days, weeks, or months of medical treatment. Hospital bills can mount, pain and suffering can take an emotional toll, and lost wages can empty a bank account. These drivers have to know what rights they have to compensation.

Source: Pet Pro Supply, "The Statistics: Car Safety and Pets in America," accessed Jan. 18, 2017

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