Dogs may be wonderful companions on road trips, but in vehicles Rover can mean just another distraction for drivers and if unrestrained, a potential driving danger, according to AAA Southern New England-CT

A recent survey conducted by AAA and Kurgo, a leading pet travel product manufacturer, found drivers not only love to chauffeur Fido around town and on trips, but they often engage in risky behaviors.

Unfortunately, these behaviors increase the risk of a crash. In the online survey of 1,000 dog owners, 56 percent said they've driven with their dogs at least once a month in the past year and:

More than half (52 percent) said they've petted their dog while driving;

More Information

Fact box

Nearly a quarter (23 percent) used their hands or arms to hold their dog in place while applying brakes, while 19 percent used their hands or arms to keep the dog from climbing in the front seat. In each case, drivers have said they've removed at least one hand from the steering wheel.

18 percent said they've reached into the back seat to interact with their dog;

17 percent either allowed the dog to sit on their lap or held their dog while driving;

13 percent have fed their dog, and another 3 percent have photographed their dog while driving.

Surprisingly though, a majority of drivers acknowledge their risky behavior: 83 percent of the drivers recognize an unrestrained dog in a moving car is dangerous.

Like drivers without seatbelts, unrestrained pets become a "missile" in a car. That's because basic physics equates force with car speed and unrestrained weight.

For example, an unrestrained 10 pound dog in a 50 mph crash exerts about 500 pounds of force inside the car. That means if that dog is unsecured it's going to slam an object inside -- or outside -- the vehicle with 500 pounds of force.

AAA recommends owners use a restraint system when they drive with their pet -- even close to home. In the survey, even though 83 percent admit to pet dangers, they continued their risky behavior with their pets with only 16 percent saying they use a restraint.

If a pet owner is aware of the possibility of injury, he or she is three times more likely to use a restraint in the future.

AAA Southern New England is a not-for-profit auto club with 40 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, providing more than 2.8 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance and auto-related services. In Connecticut, there are more than a half million AAA Southern New England members in New Haven, Litchfield and Fairfield counties.