By Richard Russell for The Globe And Mail

We’ve all seen it – someone holding a dog in their lap while driving down the road. In some cases, it is even the driver. It’s one thing to take your own life in your hands, but why put Fido at risk of instant death? If an airbag deploys, it will crush the animal against your face or chest. I can’t be more explicit than that.

Airbags are designed to deploy in a fraction of a second after a collision. Sensors tell them the distance of the seat relative to the dash, the position of the occupant and whether or not they are wearing their belt. The goal is for the bag to fully deploy to maximum size before the occupant’s upper body rushes forward toward the dash or wheel, throwing up a big pillow to protect their chest and head. It works incredibly well, saving thousands of lives and preventing tens of thousands of injuries every year.

But no system has been developed to recognize that there is a dog in the way. While I refer to the airbag as having a pillow-like effect, that is only because it is designed to deflate as quickly as it inflates – shrinking a millisecond after it has reached maximum size and contact has been made with it. Until that moment, the bag is inflating at high speed. Anything in the way will be hit with massive force more powerful than the biggest, most powerful heavyweight boxer’s punch.

Pet lovers enjoy the companionship and proximity of their furry friend. The close confines of a vehicle seems to provide the perfect opportunity to enjoy that relationship. It’s easy to think that since you are only going to the corner store, on an errand or a similar short trip, a crash is not likely. Actually, the reverse is true, the majority of crashes resulting in airbag deployment happen in urban areas at low speeds. Most are non life-threatening – unless there is a dog in the path of the airbag.

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