Today, it seems like dogs can come with us everywhere - airplanes, restaurants, malls, etc. We love to take them with us whenever possible, and they are often considered part of the family. They’re man’s best friend! But soon, dogs may not be allowed in the driver’s seat of a car. A newly proposed Michigan law would make it illegal for drivers to operate a vehicle with a dog riding in their lap.
According to Click on Detroit, House Bill 5277 was introduced in the Michigan State House on November 28, 2017 by Detroit Democratic Representative LaTanya Grant. The bill clearly states that, “an individual shall not operate a motor vehicle while a dog is sitting in his or her lap." The only exception would be for cases in which the dog must be in the driver’s lap for medical purposes, and the driver would need to have American Disability Act paperwork to prove that it is necessary.
Should the bill become law, drivers would be fined $100 for their first offense, and $200 for every offense thereafter. Rep. Grant said that, “this is about making sure Michigan drivers are safe. It's just too much going on when a driver really needs to be focused on the road. Two seconds of being distracted can cost lives, it can be very fatal."
Currently, laws regarding dogs, and all animals for that matter, in vehicles, are a bit of a grey area. Michigan State Police spokesperson Shannon Banner told MLive that Michigan legislature currently prohibits transporting an animal in a vehicle, “without providing a secure space, rack, car, crate, or cage, in which livestock may stand, and in which all other animals may stand, turn around, and lie down during transportation." But the definition of what exactly a, “secure space” is, is open to interpretation, and is usually determined on a case by case basis.
Many view the issue of driving with a dog on your lap as a form of distracted driving. The dog could potentially block the driver’s view of windows, and hinder the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle - both of which are actions that could result in a car crash. If this bill passes, it will be the first law in the State of Michigan to directly address driving with a dog in your lap.
In the meantime, laws regarding safe driving still exist. When you get behind the wheel, you are responsible for maintaining safe operation of your vehicle by following proper use of lanes and maintaining control of the vehicle. Both of these driving responsibilities can be hindered by riding with a dog in your lap. In other words, while you cannot currently be ticketed for driving with a dog in your lap, if doing so causes you to practice unsafe driving, you can be ticketed for that.
The proposed bill has been turned over to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for further review. In the meantime, think twice before you let the family pet ride in your lap. It’s likely that having a dog in your lap hinders your driving abilities to some degree. Let the dog ride shotgun, or on the floor, or in the backseat. In fact, make sure the dog is safe in a moving vehicle by using a pet harness that prevents it from getting injured in the event of a car accident. There are plenty of alternatives to having a dog in your lap, and the petting and cuddles can wait until you reach your destination. For more information about pet passenger safety, check out The Michigan Law Firm, PC blog!
Driving with a dog sitting on your lap may encourage distracted driving, and distracted driving can lead to fatal car crashes. If you have been involved in a distracted driving automobile accident, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC. Our accident attorneys are highly experinced in helping victims of car accidents identiy and collect any benegits they may be entitled to. For a free legal consultation, call 844.4MI.FIRM.