Does dogged driving earn you a ticket where you live?
"Sometimes you just can’t legislate common sense," is what some dog owners are saying in response to the driving safety legislation that's been making its way through many states' legislatures over the past couple of years. 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 who happen to live in New Hampshire, Illinois, Arizona and Virginia, among other states, may find themselves investing in doggie seatbelts and canine safety seats — or risk getting a ticket. But is it fair? Will it help? Hmmmm ...
In 2008, California’s Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed 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.
But do I take my own advice?
At least one of my dogs rides with me every day. They’re expected to stay off my lap and sit in one spot while I drive. When I first pull out (if I've got two or more in tow) they jockey for the best seat before settling in. If Vincent’s especially fractious that day, the pin-‘im-to-the-seat restraining belt is always an option.
Funny that my biggest concern in these cases has never been my own 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 would it keep them from becoming canine projectiles in the event of an accident, it would make it easier for rescue personnel to attend to all of us, should the unthinkable occur.
As much as we might dislike any legislation that would 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 pets could stand to suffer the indignity of buckling up more often. After all, I do every day. Why should they get treated to anything less?
Dr. Patty Khuly