Pet Distractions While Driving

When we think about distracted driving, we most often think about talking or texting on a cell phone. Those aren’t the only distractions drivers face, however. Many people don’t think about pet distractions while driving. However, driving with a pet unrestrained in a car can lead to driver distraction.

A 2011 survey of dog owners found that over 50% of people reported that their attention was taken away from the road in the previous year while petting their dog, and nearly 20% admitted to having taken their hands off the wheel to keep a dog from getting in the front seat. In addition, 17% reported that they had held or allowed a dog to sit in their lap, and 3% even admitted to taking a photo of their dog while they were driving.

Considering that there are nearly 90 million dogs in the U.S. (not to mention cats), those numbers show there are potentially a lot of distracted drivers on the roads.

An animal in a car (dog, cat, or other) could also affect a driver’s ability to control the car by interfering with steering or changing gears, getting under the gas or brake pedals, or blocking the driver’s view. Any of these could cause an accident by themselves, but the driver may also be distracted by trying to control the animal.

Besides being a distraction that could lead to a crash, having an unrestrained animal in the car is dangerous, both for the animal and the occupants of the car. In the event of a crash, an animal can be thrown with great force and can be injured or killed, or can injure or kill a driver or passenger. Think about an unrestrained 10-pound animal in a 30 mph crash—the pet becomes a projectile that can be flung about the car with 300 pounds of force. Even if you avoid a crash, sudden braking at high speed can cause an unrestrained animal to be hurled with deadly force.

Despite the dangers of driving with unrestrained animals, only eight states currently have laws regarding restraining an animal in a vehicle. So far only Hawaii specifically bans holding an animal in your lap while driving. Only a handful of states prohibit actions that could be considered distractions while driving, and this could include interacting with an animal. Arizona currently doesn’t have a statewide law on distracted driving.

Several accidents have been reported to have been caused by distractions from animals in a car. These include an accident in North Dakota caused by a dog that leaped into a woman’s lap, causing her to crash into a pond, and an accident caused by distraction from a cat that caused the driver to swerve into a school bus.

To avoid injury (or even death) to you or your pet, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that you use a harness or carrier to restrain your pet in a vehicle. The Center for Pet Safety has carried out studies of harnesses, crates, and carriers and has made recommendations about restraining animals in cars.

By restraining your pet in your vehicle you are less likely to become distracted by your pet while driving, which can help keep you, your passengers, and pets safer in the event of an accident.

How UPS Drivers Avoid Crashes

UPS drivers who have not had an avoidable accident for at least 25 years are inducted annually into their elite “Circle of Honor.” So far, 10,504 drivers , including Robert Gomez, Jr. of Tucson, have received this distinction. Mr. Gomez puts in over 100 miles daily (meaning he has logged at least 670,000 miles for UPS) and has delivered more than a million packages. How do he and other UPS drivers manage to avoid crashes and travel so many accident-free miles? The answer lies in the training they receive.

Before a new UPS driver delivers a single package, they must pass a demanding training program. Integral to this program are five “seeing” habits that keep drivers safe:

1. Aim High in Steering. Look well ahead, not just at the vehicle in front of you.
2. Get the Big Picture. Look out for things going on around you.
3. Keep Your Eyes Moving. Don’t fix your gaze—look around; use your peripheral vision.
4. Leave Yourself an Out. Prepare; plan an escape route if something unexpected happens.
5. Make Sure They See You. Use signals, lights, horns; make eye contact.

Two things you may not have noticed about UPS drivers, but that are important to their safety record, is that they rarely turn left or back up.

UPS drivers are taught to favor right turns unless a left turn is absolutely necessary. Left turns cause a vehicle to go against the flow of traffic and are more likely to cause an accident. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) of crashes in intersections (“Crash Factors in Intersection-Related Crashes: An On-Scene Perspective”) showed that of “critical pre-crash events” (an event that made a crash inevitable), over 22% involved left turns. In contrast, right turns were reported as pre-crash events only 1.2% of the time.

A study in New York City showed that left turns were involved in more pedestrian crashes than right turns by a factor of 3 to 1. In addition to reducing the risk of collisions, UPS found that implementing minimal left turns has not only reduced accidents, but it also has saved millions of gallons of gas each year and reduced vehicle emissions (since vehicles don’t idle while waiting to turn left).

UPS drivers are also taught to avoid backing up because it increases the chances that the vehicle might collide with something or someone. In the NHTSA report “Fatalities and Injuries in Motor Vehicle Backing Crashes,” most fatalities and injuries were found to involve passenger vehicles. Children under 5 years of age and adults over 70 were at greater risk. Driveways were the scene of the greatest number of deaths from backover collisions.

Remember that if you cause an injury or an accident while backing up, you may be held responsible for those injuries. If you must back up, check your surroundings carefully and thoroughly before doing so. When you do back up, back as slowly as possible. Use your rearview mirror, side mirrors, and backup camera (if available). Avoid backing out of a driveway into traffic. Instead, back into the driveway so you can pull out into traffic when leaving. In addition, make sure your backup lights are working in case you have to back up at night.

UPS drivers who have the privilege of being a part of the “Circle of Honor” have shared their advice for staying accident-free. This advice includes watch your mirrors; don’t be in a hurry; focus all the time; get proper rest; when you’re driving, drive; and avoid distractions.

You may or may not put in as many miles as a typical UPS driver, but you can learn from their training to avoid crashes and protect yourself and others from accidents and injuries.

Collision Reporting Center Opens in Tucson

If you have been involved in a car accident in Tucson since 2011, the Tucson Police Department (TPD) likely did not send an officer to investigate or write a report of the accident. TPD stopped responding to auto accidents not involving serious injury due to staffing concerns, making it difficult to get a police report for motor vehicle accidents. Now TPD has opened the first Collision Reporting Center in Arizona as of May 30, 2018. The Collision Reporting Center provides a place for the public to report traffic accidents for the purpose of meeting legal and insurance requirements.

Drivers who are involved in vehicle accidents in which no one was seriously injured that occur within the Tucson city limits can report damage to a vehicle, get a police report, and improve timeliness of insurance claims. Those who have been involved in collisions also will not have to wait for law enforcement at the scene, which can also reduce the potential for traffic delays or additional crashes.

It’s important to have a police report if you are involved in an accident. Injuries sometimes seem minor or even nonexistent at first, but once the shock wears off they may become apparent. The insurance company will want to see a police report of the accident. The Collision Reporting Center provides a good option for those who are involved in seemingly “minor” accidents to report the incident and obtain a police report.

There’s no charge for this service, which is a partnership with a Canadian company (Accident Support Services International), which has a total of 33 Collision Reporting Centers in North America. The Center in Tucson is the second in the United States. Funding for the company is provided by several insurance companies.

Police will still respond and investigate collisions in the following cases:
• If a death occurs.
• If the collision involves injuries that require immediate treatment away from the scene.
• If the collision includes criminal activity (e.g., impaired driving, stolen vehicles, assault).
• If the collision involves a government vehicle (i.e., Sun Tran buses, school buses, City of Tucson vehicles).
• If the collision involves hazardous materials.
• If the collision is a hit and run.
• If the collision involves bicyclists or pedestrians.

What should you do if you are involved in an auto accident within the Tucson city limits?
• Call 911 to report the accident. The 911 operator will determine if police need to respond to the accident.
• If police don’t need to respond, remove the vehicle from the roadway if it is safe to do so.
• Exchange information (name, address, phone number, insurance and vehicle information, license plate number) with other involved drivers/parties, as well as any witnesses.
• Take your vehicle as soon as possible to the Collision Reporting Center. If the vehicle is drivable, go there within 72 hours.
• If the vehicle needs to be towed, the tow truck driver will take you and the vehicle directly to the Center.
• Take your driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance information with you to the Center.

Once you get to the Center, the personnel there will take statements, complete a police report, and take photographs of the damage. The Center can forward the report and photographs directly to your insurance company.

The Collision Reporting Center is centrally located:

Midtown Multi-Service Center
1100 South Alvernon Way
Tucson, Arizona 85711
(520) 837–7474

Monday – Friday: 9am – 7pm
Saturday: 10am – 4pm
Sundays & Holidays: Closed

The Collision Reporting Center is open for a pilot program of six months in Tucson. If successful, the program may expand. Officials believe that the service will be a helpful change, and that the rest of the country will be looking at the Tucson program as an example. In addition, the service will also benefit TPD, as they will be able to track where crashes are occurring, as well as why they may be happening in certain locations.

Takata Airbags Cause Serious Injury

Nearly 40 million vehicles in the US have been or are expected to be recalled to replace defective driver and passenger front airbags made by Japanese manufacturer Takata. Under certain conditions, such as a car crash, these airbags can explode and spray metal fragments into the vehicle, which can result in serious injury or even death to its occupants. Fifteen deaths and over 100 injuries have been reported in the U.S. as a result of this problem.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) calls this recall “the largest safety recall in U.S. history.” So far, 19 different automakers have recalled cars made from 2002 to 2015 to replace these airbags. More recalls are expected by December 2019. Takata filed for bankruptcy last year and is expected to go out of business.

According to the Transportation Statistics Annual Report, 2017, front air bags are estimated to have saved nearly 9,000 lives since 2000. However, the risk of injury from the Takata defective airbags led NHTSA, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of vehicles in the U.S., to order the recalls. The age of the airbag, as well as regular exposure to high temperatures, temperature swings, or high humidity are linked to the risk of explosion. Even if your car isn’t currently exposed to these conditions, it may have been in the past if it was previously owned by someone in another part of the country. Reports estimate that only 43% of recalled vehicles have been repaired.

Is Your Car On The List?

NHTSA urgently advises owners of 2006 Ford Ranger pickup trucks and 2006 Mazda B-series pickup trucks not to drive these vehicles. If you own one of these, you should call a local dealer and get the free repairs done now. In addition, airbags in certain Honda and Acura vehicles from 2001-2003 pose a higher risk and should be repaired as soon as possible. See more about this “Do Not Drive Warning” at

To check the recall status of your car, go to and enter your car’s VIN number. Some vehicles may be scheduled for recall in the near future and will not show up on this search. NHTSA advises car owners to check this site at least twice per year. You can also sign up at for e-mail alerts of future recalls.

Air bag repairs have been put into priority groups based on age and other factors so that the vehicles with the greatest risk of serious personal injury to drivers and passengers get repaired quickly.

If your car is on the list, NHTSA recommends that you call a car dealership (not an independent mechanic) to get the free work done as soon as parts are available and work can be scheduled, especially if you drive an older model car. This can help you avoid a serious injury, or even wrongful death, in the event of a car accident.

For More Information

NHTSA reminds you that a recall is serious because it means your car has a safety issue. Visit NHTSA Takata Recall Spotlight for more information.

Review Insurance Before a Car Accident

Local injury attorneys have seen an alarming increase in the number car accidents caused by drivers with very low auto insurance coverage. What this means for accident victims is that the driver who caused their accident probably won’t have enough insurance to compensate them for their injuries.

Unfortunately, a seriously or catastrophically injured person does not have much recourse against a driver who doesn’t have adequate insurance coverage.

Worse, it’s usually after they’ve been injured that crash victims find out their own auto policies don’t offer the “full coverage” they thought they had.

Recently a young mother and her daughter were driving through an intersection when a driver made a left turn and t-boned their vehicle. The mother suffered a severe leg fracture.

The driver who caused the car accident had a minimal policy of $15,000, which is all the mother was able to collect, even though her medical expenses exceeded $75,000.

Our office reviewed the mother’s auto insurance policy in the hopes she had underinsured motorist and medical payments coverage.

She did not have med pay, which would have helped with medical expenses and liens that were filed against her settlement, but she did have underinsured motorist coverage. She also had a minimal policy, so even though she had suffered a catastrophic injury, the most she was able to collect from her UIM claim was another $15,000.

Keep in mind that when purchasing auto insurance, you want to make sure you protect yourself and your loved ones in case of a car accident.

We recommend you add uninsured, underinsured and medical payments to your policy, and that you give serious consideration to the amounts of coverage you need for adequate protection.

Take the example of a single-income parent working as a hair stylist who suffers a shoulder injury in a motor vehicle accident. An absence of several months from work or an inability to ever return to her job could have dire financial consequences.

Such person will be well advised to carry at least $100,000 in UM and UIM coverage, and at least $5,000 in medical payments. The cost is relatively low compared to liability premiums.

Uninsured motorist coverage will protect you if the person who injures you does not have any auto insurance; underinsured motorist coverage kicks in if the person who causes the accident does not have enough insurance to cover your injuries; medical payments reimburses you for accident-related medical expenses. It’s a good idea to add med pay to your auto policy even if you have medical insurance.

The words “full coverage” as they relate to auto insurance are meaningless unless you review your policy’s Declarations Page and determine what it covers if you’re the victim of a car crash.

Take a few minutes to review our previous blog posts to learn more about Auto Insurance Terms, and why you should carry Uninsured, Underinsured and Medical Payments coverage.

A few more considerations about UM, UIM and Med Pay: using this coverage will not increase your insurance premiums, and it is transferable to any relative related by blood or marriage who is living in the same household as the policy holder.

Making sure you’re adequately covered by auto insurance in case you’re the victim of a car accident is smart planning.

Prevent Car Accidents: Check for Recalls

A worried young woman called our office with an unusual question related to car accidents. She wasn’t calling about a catastrophic injury, a wrongful death, or a car accident she’d been in—she was calling about an accident she was afraid she was going to have.

She explained she had purchased a new car in 2014, but had been having problems with the car stalling. She had taken it to the dealer several times with no success. They would check her car and tell her they couldn’t find anything wrong with it. She said knew something was wrong and she was very concerned. She had recently had a close call when her car stalled while she was going through an intersection, and she was almost in a t-bone collision.

The caller did not associate the vehicle recall crisis of the past few years with her car’s problem. She didn’t realize that her car could be one of the millions of vehicles that have been recalled over the past several years for defects ranging from faulty airbags, ignition switches, tires, fuel tanks, etc.

Our office performed an internet search of recalls of her vehicle’s make, model and year, and quickly determined that her car was being recalled for the engine stalling. She was in disbelief that the dealer would not tell her about the recall or fix the problem with the engine.

Is Your Car Being Recalled

Consumers can make sure their car is up-to-date on the latest recall action with a simple internet search. If your vehicle is the subject of a recall and you don’t take action, it can lead to car accidents that can cause serious injury or wrongful death. For example, some drivers who have been in auto accidents in vehicles equipped with Takata airbags, which shoot debris into the cabin of a car, have been killed and others seriously disfigured by these airbags.

To find out if your vehicle is part of a recall, enter its vehicle identification number at, which is a website run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If you find your vehicle has a defective part that needs to be replaced, contact the dealer immediately to schedule an appointment.

Caution When Buying Used Vehicles

Typically, consumers performing their due diligence when buying a used car take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic for an inspection and ask the seller for a Carfax report. Consumers should now add another step to their research and check the vehicle’s recall history. Again, it’s easy to do at the NHTSA website.

New Vehicles May Also Have Recalled Parts

A recent congressional report raised concerns that new cars are being sold with defective Takata airbags. Consumers need to be aware that some car manufacturers are selling new vehicles equipped with defective parts, and these cars will be the subject of recalls as they’re being driven off the lot. When buying a new car consumers must ask the dealer to confirm if their vehicle was made using any defective parts that are involved in a recall, and if the parts will be replaced before the sale of the vehicle is completed.

Report Car Issues

Consumers should frequently check their vehicles at for any recall activity, but if there is an issue with their car that they feel has not been identified, reporting the problem to NHTSA will help regulators hold auto manufacturers to the highest standard of auto safety.

NHTSA won’t subject a vehicle class to a recall until they make sure the problem is serious. Timely reporting of issues by consumers will help make the process of recalling defective parts more efficient. allows consumers to File a Complaint and report issues with their vehicles that that may not yet be part of a recall.

Consumers should be able to trust that the vehicle they purchased was made without defective parts, and if the manufacturer identifies an issue, that they will notify owners immediately and correct the problem.