With summer travel season upon us, families are hitting the road — and that of course, means four-legged family members, too. To ensure safe travels for everyone, it’s important to take heed of a pet travel safety issue — pets and distracted driving.

When we think of distracted driving, the typical culprits that come to mind include texting, eating, applying makeup, chatting on the phone or even daydreaming. We seldom consider that traveling with an unsecured pet is a dangerous distraction.

TripsWithPets recently polled pet parents who often drive with their pets. The poll showed that a whopping 60 percent of pet parents partake in unsafe distracted driving habits involving their pet. Additionally, 42 percent of respondents admitted to being distracted by their four-legged travel companions, yet 77 percent indicated that they do not secure their pet in their vehicle. According to the poll, drivers were petting their dogs, putting them in their laps, and frequently checking their mirrors (or turning around) to check on them. Further, many drivers (25 percent) snapped pictures with their dogs while driving.

It’s pretty easy to understand how an unsecured pet can be a distraction while driving. Some pets may become anxious or excited causing them to jump around or bark while in the vehicle. Additionally, a happy and loving pet may just want to be near you and crawl on your lap while driving.

Oftentimes, pets can be frightened and there is always an element of unpredictability with any animal. When looking for comfort, dogs and cats may naturally opt to be near you and add to the possible perils caused by these distractions.

Properly securing your pet in your vehicle is not only about alleviating this potential driving distraction that could cause an accident. It is also a proactive approach should there be an accident or sudden stop — even a fender bender can injure an unsecured pet. We wear seat belts for our safety in case of an accident and should take the same care to secure our pets. A pet that is not restrained properly in a vehicle can be seriously harmed or even killed if thrown from a vehicle. Airbags can go off and injure a pet in your lap. In the event of an accident, frightened pets can easily escape from a vehicle and run off. Further, a pet that is not properly secured may not only be harmed but could also put others in danger through the force of any impact from an accident.

Ensuring your pet is safe while traveling in your vehicle means finding the pet safety restraint that is right for him. Options include pet seat belts, pet car seats, travel crates, and vehicle pet barriers. Planning to have the right pet safety restraint for your trip will not only keep you and your pet safe, but also offer you peace of mind and take one more distraction away.