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Lap Dogs the Target of Distracted Driving Legislation

Steve Wagner

We’ve all seen it.

You’re out driving, minding your own business. Then you see the face of a small dog staring back at you from a nearby vehicle.

Another pooch perched on the lap of its owner, the driver.

If you’ve ever thought, “That seems dangerous,” you’re not alone.

Indiana Senator Dennis Kruse, a Republican out of Auburn, has proposed Senate Bill 32, which would ban dogs from sitting on the laps of their owners while driving.

Indiana is certainly no pioneer when it comes to lap dog legislation.

A similar law is already on the books in Hawaii, where motorists are forbidden from driving with any “person, animal or object” in his or her lap. In many other states, including Arizona, Connecticut and Maine, distracted driving statutes can be extended to dogs at the discretion of the investigating officer.

California passed a law in 2008 outlawing lap dogs while driving, but it was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Still, various law-enforcement agencies have said they will ticket motorists with driving at an unsafe speed as no speed is safe to drive with a lap dog.

A similar bill in Illinois was defeated in 2012, along with others in Tennessee and Virginia.

It seems clear, however, that many dog owners enjoy bringing their pets along for the ride and that those pets cause some level of distraction. While little hard evidence has been gathered on the subject, at least one survey sought to interrogate dog owners and their habits when it comes to riding in cars.

For what it’s worth, 17 percent of dog owners said their dogs sit on their laps, during a survey done by AAA and Kurgo, a maker of pet products, in 2011. Among those, more than 66 percent reported being distracted at some point by the pup.

Many passionate pet owners wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without their prized pup. But when do animal companions cross that line and become dangerous distractions?

Paws to Click estimates that unsecured dogs cause roughly 30,000 car crashes a year. Pets can be secured by any number of means, including crates and harnesses. AAA reports that pet restraints can limit distractions caused by pets, though only 16 percent of pet owners report using them.

Lap dogs endanger other travelers, their owners and themselves. Director of Professional and Public Affairs at the American Veterinary Medical Association and Veterinarian Kimberly May said unsecured dogs often sustain eye injuries, broken ribs and legs when they are involved in accidents. Airbags can also endanger canines.

Meanwhile, she said, the presence of a dog can interfere with driving and cause distraction.

The Indiana General Assembly convened on Jan. 3, 2017. The bill will go before the Homeland Security and Transportation Committee. Senator Kruse has proposed that violations would be Class C infractions and carry a fine of up to $500.

If Indiana dogs should lose the right to ride lap-top, at least Fido can ride shotgun.

We’ve all seen it.

You’re out driving, minding your own business. Then you see the face of a small dog staring back at you from a nearby vehicle.

Another pooch perched on the lap of its owner, the driver.

If you’ve ever thought, “That seems dangerous,” you’re not alone.

Indiana Senator Dennis Kruse, a Republican out of Auburn, has proposed Senate Bill 32, which would ban dogs from sitting on the laps of their owners while driving.

Indiana is certainly no pioneer when it comes to lap dog legislation.

A similar law is already on the books in Hawaii, where motorists are forbidden from driving with any “person, animal or object” in his or her lap. In many other states, including Arizona, Connecticut and Maine, distracted driving statutes can be extended to dogs at the discretion of the investigating officer.

California passed a law in 2008 outlawing lap dogs while driving, but it was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Still, various law-enforcement agencies have said they will ticket motorists with driving at an unsafe speed as no speed is safe to drive with a lap dog.

A similar bill in Illinois was defeated in 2012, along with others in Tennessee and Virginia.

It seems clear, however, that many dog owners enjoy bringing their pets along for the ride and that those pets cause some level of distraction. While little hard evidence has been gathered on the subject, at least one survey sought to interrogate dog owners and their habits when it comes to riding in cars.

For what it’s worth, 17 percent of dog owners said their dogs sit on their laps, during a survey done by AAA and Kurgo, a maker of pet products, in 2011. Among those, more than 66 percent reported being distracted at some point by the pup.

Many passionate pet owners wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without their prized pup. But when do animal companions cross that line and become dangerous distractions?

Paws to Click estimates that unsecured dogs cause roughly 30,000 car crashes a year. Pets can be secured by any number of means, including crates and harnesses. AAA reports that pet restraints can limit distractions caused by pets, though only 16 percent of pet owners report using them.

Lap dogs endanger other travelers, their owners and themselves. Director of Professional and Public Affairs at the American Veterinary Medical Association and Veterinarian Kimberly May said unsecured dogs often sustain eye injuries, broken ribs and legs when they are involved in accidents. Airbags can also endanger canines.

Meanwhile, she said, the presence of a dog can interfere with driving and cause distraction.

The Indiana General Assembly convened on Jan. 3, 2017. The bill will go before the Homeland Security and Transportation Committee. Senator Kruse has proposed that violations would be Class C infractions and carry a fine of up to $500.

If Indiana dogs should lose the right to ride lap-top, at least Fido can ride shotgun.

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