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Driving with a dog on your lap: As dangerous as texting?
More than 1 in 5 American drivers with a dog in tow let Fido climb into the driver's seat — and some even play fetch
Five percent of U.S. drivers who travel with their dog admit that they actually play with their pet when their eyes are supposed to be on the road.
Texting behind the wheel may be the new drunk driving, but it appears we have a furry front in the war on unsafe motoring, too: Keeping dogs off drivers' laps. Driving with an unrestrained pet in the front seat is apparently widespread enough, and dangerous enough, that at least two states — Rhode Island and Tennessee — are considering bans on the practice. Here, a look at the issue of driving while under a dog, and why people are trying to stop it:
How widespread is this problem?
A 2010 survey from AAA has some pretty jarring numbers: 21 percent of drivers who transported their dogs in the last year said they let the pooch ride on their lap, 7 percent said they'd fed or given water to the dog while driving, 5 percent admitted to playing with the dog while driving, and 31 percent said that the dog had distracted them, regardless of where it was in the car.
And it's dangerous?
Yes. An unrestrained 10-pound dog traveling at 50 miles per hour flies forward with 500 pounds of pressure in a crash, and an 80-pound dog at only 30 mph packs a 2,400-pound punch, says AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher. "Imagine the devastation that can cause to your pet and anyone in the vehicle in its path."
But it's legal to drive with a dog in your lap, right?
For now, yes. No state forbids dogs, cats, or other animals from running around freely inside your vehicle. But two states are trying to change that. In Tennessee, a Republican-sponsored bill passed in the House on April 2 and is currently stalled in the Senate. In Rhode Island, a Democrat-backed bill was introduced April 9, and is working its way through the House.