Pet Cat Loose in Car Leads to Rollover Crash

Date: July 26, 2010
Location: Highway 26 near Banks, Oregon
Names: Brittany R. Spady

Could pets in your car be as dangerous as texting while driving?

On July 26, 2010, according to an OSP press release, a 21-year-old woman was distracted by her cat, which was loose in the car, and lost control of the vehicle. Brittany R. Spady, 21, of Manning, ended up with non-life threatening injuries from the resulting crash.

On August 19, a study by AAA confirmed just how dangerous it is to have a pet loose in your car, calling it just as distracting as texting, and warning that pets are now the third worst distraction for drivers.

Spady was driving west on Highway 26 near Banks, Oregon, around 7:55 PM, when her pet cat crawled onto the driver’s side floorboard and got between the brake and gas pedals. Spady lost control of the car and veered into the westbound side ditch, where the car rolled and hit a tree.

Spady was transported by LifeFlight to OHSU for treatment of her injuries, and has since been discharged.

Good Samaritans at the scene searched for about 45 minutes for the cat, but could not find the animal.

We hope Spady recovers quickly from her injuries, and wish her the best. We also hope the cat will be found.

In addition, we hope our readers will use this opportunity to make sure they never drive with an unrestrained animal.
It’s just as dangerous as sending a text message while driving, said AAA, noting that taking your eyes off the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of a crash. They also discovered that having a pet in the car is the third most dangerous distraction, behind talking on the phone and texting.

According to the study, 80 percent of drivers say they travel with pets in the car – but less than a quarter of those keep the animals restrained. Two-thirds of dog owners often drive while playing with their pups or petting them, and sometimes even give them food and water. One in five allowed their dogs to sit in their lap.

Very few states have any laws dealing with pets in cars, and most of them only deal with dogs. To compound the problem, fines may be little more than a slap on the wrist – in Oregon, for instance, a violation is a class D traffic violation, with a fine of $90.

In Oregon and seven other states, drivers must secure animals when they are in an open area of a vehicle – like the back of a pickup truck. No state, however, requires animals to be restrained inside a car, and most laws only address dogs, not cats or other animals.

If you’re planning to travel with your pet, visit a pet supply store for a selection of crates and barriers that can help prevent a tragic Oregon auto accident. Here are a few more tips for driving with animals:

  • Always transport cats in a travel crate designed specifically for cats. Cats like to sit on your lap or cuddle up on the dashboard – or even worse, interfere with your gas and brake pedals – and should never travel unrestrained.
  • Your dog should always be tethered in a pet-designed seat belt or harness. If not, a sudden stop could send your dog flying forward with up to 500 pounds of pressure, risking serious harm to both you and your dog.
  • Even though dogs love to hang their heads out the window, don’t let them. It’s not safe for the dog, and it can distract other drivers.