National and World News Editor
A dog is a man’s best friend, except when the dog is in the driver’s seat of a moving vehicle. Rhode Island legislature Peter Palumbo believes that if an owner truly loves his dog, he would not allow the dog to sit in the driver’s seat because it creates a possible. Palumbo is sponsoring a bill that would make it illegal to transport a dog in the front seat. The maximum fine for such an offense would be $125.
Passing a law to prevent dogs from riding on the driver’s side has proved unsuccessful in the past. California, Maryland, and Pennsylvania have all proposed bills to prevent dog distractions, but none of the laws have passed. Other states, such as New Jersey, Washington and Hawaii, have successfully banned dogs from being transported in dangerous ways. In New Jersey tickets can range from $250 to $1000 dollars depending on the level of improper dog transportation.
“There is no harm in having a dog ride in the front seat. Most of the time they just sit there like a human,” said Amanda Conroy, speech communication major at MU. Conroy does not have a dog, but she does allow her cat to ride along in the passenger seat. “If they sit there and aren’t climbing on the driver,” said Conroy.
The National Highway Traffic Association reports that 5,500 people were killed by distracted driving in 2009. The National Highway Traffic Association does not record accidents under pet related distractions; rather, they include pets, cell phones, and music players in the driver distraction category. The exact numbers are not known, but experts estimate that thousands of people are injured by unrestrained dogs in the passenger seat.
A 2010 AAA survey found that 21 percent of dog owners admit to letting their k-9 sit in the front seat with them. Lacey Adams, biology major at MU, loves to let her dog sit in the driver’s seat. “My dog is obedient and always stays in the seat,” said Adams.
The AAA survey also found that 65 percent of owners who allow their pooch in the front seat admitted to engaging in distracting actions with their dog. These actions include grooming, petting, and feeding the dog. All of these actions take the driver’s attention away from the road. Looking away from the road for just two seconds can double a driver’s accident potential, according to the AAA Traffic Safety Foundation.
”I have someone hold my Chihuahua back when I’m driving. She is never allowed in the front seat,” said Jen Ensminger, a molecular biology major at MU. Ensminger agrees with Palumbo, the Rhode Island lawmaker. “It makes sense that someone would propose a law to protect the safety of drivers,” said Ensminger.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) suggests that dogs should be restrained comfortably during transport. The RSPCA reports that transporting your dog in a crate with suitable bedding, ventilation and airflow, and sufficient room to sit and stand will ensure proper transportation of your dog.
For now, drivers like Adams have nothing to worry about in Pennsylvania. A cop cannot pull you over unless the dog presents a clear danger to the safety of the owner and other drivers. Dog owners will continue to drive with their friend in the front seat, at least in Pennsylvania. But as Conroy points out, “Perhaps there are more important things than dogs in the front seat for lawmakers to spend their time on.”