“Sometimes you just can’t legislate common sense,” is what some dog owners are saying in response to the driving safety legislation making its way through many states’ legislatures. Some of these bills would specifically ban dogs from riding in the driver’s seat with their owners. Others mention pets specifically among a list of ticket-able “distractions.”
Dog owners who take their pets out for some fast-moving fresh air and happen to live in New Hampshire, Illinois, Arizona and Virginia, among other states, may soon find themselves investing in doggie seatbelts and canine safety seats—or risk a ticket.
In September, California’s Schwarzenegger vetoed such an outright ban on dogs in drivers’ seats, claiming there was insufficient time to handle this bill with so many more important items on the table. Dubbed “The Paris Hilton Bill” for this heiress’ penchant for parading her pooches while driving, it garnered nationwide attention for its triviality.
But there’s no denying it—dogs are a distraction. And many ride unsafely (for them, anyway). In fact, I believe that allowing dogs to hang out of windows, feet perched on the frame (a common sight in Miami) is as sanction-worthy as transporting loose dogs in the back of pick-ups. I’ve seen severe injuries from both versions—and more than one DOA.
My dogs ride with me every day. They’re trained to stay off my lap and to stay in one spot while I drive. When I first pull out, they jockey for the best seat (which changes according to the weather, as I like to drive with the windows open). Then they settle. If Vincent’s especially fractious that day the seat belt is always in the car, at the ready.
Funny that my biggest concern in these cases has never been the driving. I’m always looking out for the dogs. I know that for their safety’s sake it’s best if my dogs are restrained. Not only does it keep them from becoming canine projectiles in the event of an accident, it makes it easier for rescue personnel to attend to me should the unthinkable occur.
As much as we might dislike any legislation that would serve to limit how we handle our dogs, perhaps some common sense rules would do us all some good. If nothing else, reading about these proposed laws has reminded me that my own could stand to suffer the indignity of buckling up. After all, I do every day.