You have probably seen it as you are driving around Charlotte: a dog sitting on a driver's lap. It might very well look like a cute way for a pet lover to get around town, but it could soon be a violation of state law.
House Bill 73 was recently submitted to the North Carolina House. If passed and signed into law, it would impose a $100 fine on people who drive with a pet on their lap. The bill states that driving like that "is a distraction that endangers the safety of the driver, any passengers in the vehicle, others traveling in the same vicinity, and the animal."
The initiative's first stop in the legislative process is in the House Judiciary Committee. If it is approved, it moves to the Transportation Committee. If it makes it all the way through the process, it would become law on Dec. 1.
Only two states have current laws against drivers having animals on their laps: New Jersey and Hawaii.
A newspaper article quotes a pet advocacy group stating that there is no accident data to show how many motor vehicle accidents are caused by drivers with pets on their laps. However, the dangers of distracted driving have been well-established by various studies and research.
It doesn't take much imagination to understand that a driver whose pet is injured, panicked or jumps out of a car window can put other motorists in immediate danger.
A 2011 AAA survey found that nearly 60 percent of respondents said they drove with a pet in the vehicle within the past month; and 31 percent said they had been distracted by a pet while they drove.
AAA and others offer advice to pet owners on how to keep your pet, yourself and other motorists safe while you drive.
If you have been injured by a negligent driver, you can speak with an experienced Charlotte personal injury attorney about your legal options.