Man's best friend is not a driver's best friend.
While lawmakers have been banning drivers from texting or using cellphones, many motorists are riding around with another dangerous risk -- their dogs.
Experts say an unrestrained dog -- whether curled up on a lap, hanging out the window or resting its paws on the steering wheel -- can be deadly. Tens of thousands of car accidents are believed caused every year by unrestrained pets, though no one has solid numbers.
"An unrestrained pet can be hugely distracting -- if he is seeking your attention, putting his face right in front of yours, starts chewing up the upholstery or is vomiting because he is carsick," said Katherine Miller, director of applied science and research for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The issue is drawing attention in some statehouses. Hawaii is the only state that specifically forbids drivers from operating a vehicle with a pet on their lap. But Oregon lawmakers are considering fining drivers who hold their pets behind the wheel. And some cities are taking action, too.
In 2009, 5,474 people were killed and 448,000 injured in crashes caused by distracted drivers in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.