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cat with sunglasses in driver's lapFor years, driving under the influence has been the most publicized threat on Michigan roads. Now, however, many are recognizing distracted driving as an enormous safety concern. While some states have taken steps to address common types of distracted driving, such as texting while driving, the law has yet to catch up with the less common distraction of driving with a pet on one’s lap.

Why Driving with Unrestrained Pets Is a Problem

While there are no statistics on the frequency of accidents caused by pet-related distractions, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety stated that the odds of a crash double when a driver takes his eyes off the road for as little as two seconds. Of course, it's not hard to imagine how a pet in a confined space like a vehicle could distract a driver for at least two seconds.

Potential property damage and personal injury are reasons enough for drivers to avoid traveling with an unrestrained pet on their laps. What many drivers don't consider is the increased risks their pets face when unrestrained, even in minor collisions. Small pets can be ejected from the vehicle after a crash or badly injured by a deploying airbag. The dangers continue after the collision, as an unrestrained pet could leave the vehicle and wander into traffic.

Distracted Driving with Pets in the Car

According to a 2011 AAA survey, nearly 60 percent of drivers have driven with their pets. Almost one in three drivers admits to being distracted by pets while driving, and one in five admits to driving with a pet on his or her lap.

There are a variety of reasons drivers don't restrain their pets, according to the same 2011 survey. Some drivers simply had not considered pet restraints, while others felt their pets were more likely to stay calm in their laps. Additionally, some drivers wanted to avoid the hassle of pet restraints on short trips.

New Regulations About Driving with Pets

Some states, such as Hawaii, are beginning to regulate driving with an unrestrained pet. In Hawaii, it is now illegal to drive with a pet on one's lap, and other states are currently taking up comprehensive laws regarding unsafe pet travel.

The AAA survey indicates that Michigan drivers would benefit greatly from increased awareness of the dangers of driving with a pet in one's lap. According to the study, drivers who were aware of cases in which a pet was harmed while riding on a driver's lap were three times more likely to restrain their pets while driving in the future. It is safer for humans and pets alike when pets are properly restrained before and during every road trip.

A new Michigan bill proposed by Rep. Latanya Garett, D-Detroit, would prohibit drivers from operating their vehicles with a dog on their lap. The fine for the initial offense would be $100 and the subsequent fine would be $200. This house bill would not apply to dogs that are there for medical purposes. The bill is still making its way through the house, but it does show that lawmakers have recognized the danger and are taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of all travelers.

Consult a Michigan Accident Attorney

With driving with pets in laps is still legal in Michigan the possibility of an accident occurring is highly possible. If you find yourself in a pet-related accident, contact the car accident attorneys at Michigan Legal Center for a free case evaluation. With over 60 years experience and 2,000 clients helped, our qualified accident attorneys have the knowledge and resources required to get you the compensation you deserve.

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