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Delegate doesn't want your dog in your lap in the car
Date published: 1/16/2008
When Del. Bobby Mathieson spots that, he sees a safety hazard.
Mathieson, a freshman Democratic delegate from Virginia Beach, has introduced a bill to bar drivers from driving with an animal in their lap, or allowing an animal in the car to block their view.
Mathieson, a retired police officer, said he has heard anecdotal evidence of dogs in laps being such a distraction to the driver that they've caused accidents, although he never worked such an accident during his career.
"It's an absolute driver distraction," Mathieson said. "Just like a cell phone."
Mathieson said there aren't any statistics on accidents caused by drivers being distracted by dogs, and there isn't a box on police accident reports to specify that a dog on the driver's lap caused the accident. Some have said animal distractions would fall under reckless driving, if an accident resulted, but Mathieson said he thinks it needs to be specifically spelled out in the code.
His bill doesn't outline how a driver would keep a dog off his or her lap while driving, and it doesn't require that animals in cars be restrained in any way.
Mathieson said, however, that his bill would help protect the animals as well as the drivers.
"It's animal friendly because it keeps the dog safe and the cat safe," he said.
Mathieson's bill has been sent to the House Transportation Committee, and has not been heard there yet.
Driving with a pet in your lap is a distraction, said Debra Joseph, executive director of the Greater Fredericksburg Area SPCA. "I kind of equate it to talking on a cell phone or putting on makeup. You' re not paying full attention," Joseph said.
Dogs and cats who are normally calm in a vehicle can react to outside objects, Joseph said, creating a safety hazard.
"Certain animals will react to either noises or they're looking out the window and they see another dog or squirrel," she said. "We occasionally hear stories like that, so again, that certainly can be a safety factor."