21% of respondents had driven with a dog in their lap; 7% admitted to feeding or watering their dogs while the car was in motion; 5% of those who participated said that they have played with their dog as they were driving.
Even without the ridiculously dangerous behavior, 39% said that they were distracted by their dog no matter where the dog spent the car trip. I would believe that number is probably higher, much higher.
The legislators in Rhode Island are attempting to do something about this problem by banning small dogs from riding in the drivers’ laps. The proposal is part of a larger, more comprehensive effort to lessen the number of distractions that drivers currently deal with.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Peter G. Palumbo, proposed the law after hearing how one of his constituents had managed to avoid being in two separate accidents where the drivers were paying more attention to the small dogs sitting in their laps.
The penalties for those caught with a dog in their lap while driving are just enough to deter but not break the bank. Offenders would be fined $85 fine for first offenses, a $100 fine for second offenses and a $125 fine for subsequent offenses.
If the bill passes Rhode Island would be the first state to have an in-car law regulating where dogs can be or not be. Several states have laws prohibiting dogs from riding the in open truck beds without restraints. In 2008, California had a bill passed through state assembly that would have made it illegal to allow a dog to be unrestrained within a car, but it was vetoed by the Governor. Although there is no dog-specific law, there are many states that have distracted driver laws – meaning that anything that distracts the driver is prohibited (no shaving, putting on makeup, or riding around with so many cats that the driver can’t see out the back window like one South Dakota woman – the number of cats: 15!)
Normally, I’m not a fan of new laws, but if people can’t use common sense to recognize a dangerous situation then I suppose a law (basically the governmental equivalent of a warning label) is not an altogether bad idea. It doesn’t take a genius to see the potential hazards of what can happen to a tiny 10-pound body when an airbag is deployed. Also, I frequently see these tiny dogs perched precariously on the driver’s open window – one good swerve and that dog is going to go flying out of the car! For everyone’s sake, a driver’s first and only responsibility is to pay attention to the road – a phone, a dog, even a child is a potential threat when it distracts the driver.
This month’s Rescue of the Month is Montana’s Precious Gold Golden Retriever Rescue. A small group of volunteers that take in homeless, unwanted and abused Goldens – provide medical care, foster homes and loving forever homes. A portion of the sales this month will go to support their much needed and appreciated work.