While many states have already outlawed texting, grooming, reading, and eating while driving, Rhode Island is taking distracted driving to a whole new level. Representative Peter Palumbo, a Democrat from Cranston, R.I., has presented a bill that would outlaw dogs from riding in the lap of the driver. If this bill passes through successfully, it would levy a fine of no more than $125 for those who are caught with Fido riding on your lap. First time offenders would warrant an $85 fine.
One of Palumbo’s main concerns are that the dog’s tail can get in the face of the driver, making it harder to see what’s ahead. Another is that the dog isn’t in a seatbelt and in the event of an accident, it could spell trouble for man’s best friend. A house committee meeting is set for next week where Mr. Palumbo’s bill will be heard for the first time. If it does pass, the smallest state in the union will be the first to ban dogs from riding on the driver’s lap. Banning dogs from riding on the driver’s lap isn’t new to state governments however. Over a half dozen states including California, Maryland, and Pennsylvania have lobbied for a bill like Palumbo’s, but none have passed.
“I think this bill is the last thing Rhode Island needs to focus on right now,” said Bryan Liese, 23, a project manager. “It should be up to the owner as to where their dog rides in the car. They should be responsible enough to even get a pet in the first place, so let people use their own judgment.”
A survey conducted back in 2010 indicates that one in five people ride with their dogs, albeit usually a smaller breed, on their lap. Of the total number of people surveyed, 31 percent said their pet had distracted them while behind the wheel no matter where it was in the vehicle, seven percent said they feed their pet food or water while behind the wheel and five percent said they play with their dog while driving.
This bill presents somewhat of a predicament as many business, hotels, and airlines are now marketing “pet-friendly” deals. The proposed bill doesn’t outlaw pets from riding in vehicles altogether, just not on the driver’s lap. It does, however, open up the chance of more infractions, which in turn equals profit generated for a state that’s in dire need of some cash flow. Currently, Rhode Island’s unemployment rate is hovering around 11 percent and Mr. Palumbo admits this isn’t the most pressing issue facing the Ocean State.
Some critics are calling him out for it too, saying it’s a waste of tax-payers money to pursue a law like this. Nevertheless, Mr. Palumbo is extremely confident his bill will pass through the house and become the first law of its kind in Rhode Island or anywhere else in the United States. As always, stay tuned as more information makes itself available.
Source: Wall Street Journal