Ending the practice of distracted driving has become a cause for safety officials all across the country. And although efforts to curb this dangerous activity typically focus on ways that we can prevent texting or talking on a cellphone, another danger is also giving officials cause to worry: driving with pets.
It’s not so much driving with a pet that’s a problem, but driving with an animal without following safety guidelines. In a survey conducted by AAA in 2010, 20% of respondents said they let their dogs sit on their lap while driving, and an even higher 31% admitted that at one point their dog caused a distraction.
Unrestrained animals are placed in harm’s way, but so are their owners in the event of a crash, according to a representative from the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. To avoid danger, consumers are advised to head to any pet store and buy restraints that comply with guidelines. Such devices can include harnesses and travel crates.
Laws regarding unrestrained animals vary depending on the state. The distracted driving laws already in place in states like Maine, Connecticut, and Arizona allow officers to cite a person with a dog on their lap. Hawaii has a law which specifically forbids the practice. Rhode Island has legislation pending, and New Jersey law enforcement officials can pull over anyone if they suspect an animal isn’t being transported properly.