Pet peeve: legislator seeks ban on driving with lap dogs

Animals on board can be a dangerous distraction

We live in an age when many people view the family pet is an actual member of the family. A person who just happens to have four legs. Dogs are no longer sentries. They are exercise buddies, shopping companions and co-pilots.

A state senator in Oregon has introduced a bill to ban people from driving with dogs in their laps. Naturally, dog lovers say he is barking up the wrong tree. But letting pets ride up front is a legitimate safety hazard - for owners, their pets and everyone else on the road.

Do you think we should have this law in Maryland?

Man's best friend should not ride shotgun

People who chide others for texting while driving may think nothing of driving with their dog in their lap. Or letting their animal roam free in the front seat. But pets up front can be dangerous and distracting:

  • Playing tug-of-war with Rascal instead of watching the road
  • Allowing Boo Boo Kitty to explore the dashboard or footwell
  • Letting Maggie "drive" with her paws on the steering wheel
  • Petting Lucky when needing to brake or swerve abruptly

Oregon lawmaker Bill Hanson introduced legislation to prohibit people from driving with dogs (or cats) in their lap. He was responding to concerns of constituents who witnessed drivers distracted by their pets. This is already the law in New Jersey, Connecticut and Hawaii. In other states, like Maine and Arizona, drivers with dogs in their laps can be cited under the distracted driving statutes. In a handful of other states, similar lap dog bans have been proposed and shot down.

If Nothing Else, Do It For Your Pet

Even if it's legal, it still not a good idea to let pets sit on your lap, the dash or the front passenger seat. Not only is it a dangerous distraction, it could be tragic for the animal.

Travel experts at AAA and pet advocacy groups recommend transporting pets in a carrier or harnessed, and ideally in the back seat. In a crash, front-seat pets could be flung into the windshield or badly injured by the airbag. Or that lap dog could be crushed between the driver and the steering wheel.

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