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Nearly run over by Rin Tin Tin

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I’ve selfishly used this space before to chide drivers who don’t always display the best of practices or courtesy to their fellow motorists. A year or so ago I honked the horn at drivers who I saw using their turn signals as simply an option when making a left- or right-hand turn.

Several readers agreed with the problem, pointing out that even fewer people use their signals before or after initiating a pass or lane change.
I still see a lack of turn-signal use but a near-accident a few weeks ago raised a new complaint, one you may have seen, too: Pets riding a little too closely alongside drivers, obstructing their view.

I was nearly hit at a four-way intersection at 19th and Tell streets by a man who failed to see me. His problem wasn’t a cell phone but a large German shepherd on his lap that was doing its best to peer out the window.

The dog apparently didn’t pass on the news to his master that another driver (me) reached the intersection first and was proceeding. I hit the brakes and the driver turned in surprise when he saw my car halfway through the intersection. He tried to wave me on, but I let him go ahead.

I have nothing against dogs riding in vehicles, though I think some drivers give their pooches too much freedom. I’ve seen cases when dogs hang so far outside of windows I wonder how they avoid falling out. I witnessed one small terrier riding in a truck jump repeatedly through a rear-cab window, finding it quite the treat to check out things from the bed of the truck and then from the passenger-side window.

I’m guilty of doing lots of things while driving, talking on my cell phone, texting – though I try to avoid it in town or while in traffic – and sometimes driving a bit too quickly or tailgating. Shame on me, but I have to think having a pet jumping around in a car or truck, especially sitting in one’s lap or peering out of the driver’s-side window, is about as dangerous a distraction as they come.

Maybe some dog owners will disagree. I’m sure the dogs love the ride and owners enjoy getting out and about with their animals, but pets in the car can go too far.

I don’t have pets but if I had a dog or cat that I really loved, I think I would worry about its safety. What would happen to the unrestrained animal in the event of an accident? I know some owners who are so safety-conscious they place their dogs in back-seat kennels before setting off on a journey, even if it’s only a few blocks to a walking trail.

I’m not knocking pet owners, but it might be safer for everyone to keep the dog on the passenger side of the vehicle, not the driver’s side. I’m sure the view is just as good and the ride just as enjoyable.