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Home / Articles / Columnists / Happy Motoring /  Furry Distractions
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Thursday, April 7,2016

Furry Distractions

By Teresa Aquila  


As more and more drivers are finding out that driving distracted is weighing heavily on their wallets, and texting is now considered the new driving drunk, it appears there´s also a furry front in the war on unsafe motoring: keeping dogs off drivers´ laps. Driving with an unrestrained pet in the front seat is apparently widespread enough, and dangerous enough, that at least two states, Rhode Island and Tennessee, are considering bans on the practice of driving with a dog in your lap or "between the driver and driver´s door".


Is this becoming a serious problem?

A 2010 survey from AAA has some pretty jarring numbers: 21 percent of drivers who transported their dogs in the last year said they let the pooch ride on their lap, seven percent said they´d fed or given water to the dog while driving, five percent admitted to playing with the dog while driving, and 31 percent said that the dog had distracted them, regardless of where it was in the car.

How dangerous is it?

An unrestrained 10-pound dog, traveling at 50 miles per hour, flies forward with 500 pounds of force in a crash, and an 80-pound dog at only 30 mph packs a 2,400-pound punch. Just think of the devastation that can be caused to your pet, and to anyone in the vehicle in its path. Anything that is not secured within your vehicle in an accident becomes a projectile and if your pet is not secured, serious injury will occur; surviving from such an incident might not be possible.

Imagine placing a marble into a paper bag, blowing it up with air, grabbing the top portion, and with the other hand, smashing it really fast. Watch what happens to the marble as it takes flight from the pressure within the bag as it pops open. That is exactly what happens to items within a vehicle during heavy impact.

We all love our pets and most of us treat them like people, our kids and even our best friends. You wouldn’t allow your child to roam free these days within the vehicle without being properly restrained, so why would you do the same for your pets?

So is it legal?

For now yes, but many states are considering forbidding dogs, cats, or other animals from running around freely inside your vehicle. And two states are taking action. In Tennessee, a Republican - sponsored bill passed in the House on April 2 and is currently stalled in the Senate. In Rhode Island, a Democrat-backed bill was introduced April 9, and is working its way through the House. There shouldn´t be anything in your lap, whether it is your little pooch or your Great Dane. Your ability to maneuver the vehicle safely with Fido in your lap if a dangerous situation was to occur, or even trying to turn, is not only challenging, but unsafe for everyone on the road.

Other states are also considering new related laws. California´s legislature outlawed dogs in drivers´ laps in 2008, but then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it. And South Dakota´s Supreme Court sided with police who stopped a woman in 2010 with 15 cats running loose in her car, impounding the cats because they posed a risk to public safety. The woman, Patricia Edwards, didn´t even see the patrol car behind her because cats were huddled in her rear window.

Sharing the road safely is the responsibility of all drivers, and whether it be driving impaired, driving drunk, texting, eating, or being distracted by whatever means, think before you get behind the wheel, because your life and the lives of all those on the road are at stake.

Be Safe and Happy Motoring.


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