(Photo: Sent in by reader)
There’s a new front in the war on distracted driving: lap animals. State Senator Ginny Burdick is the sponsor of Senate Bill 160, which would create a new traffic violation for, “operating a vehicle when an animal is in the operator’s lap.” The offense would come with a maximum fine of $90.
I never thought too much of the traffic safety implications of unrestrained pets until last month when a woman was distracted by her dog prior to running into and seriously injuring a man bicycling on SW Multnomah Blvd. (That man, Reese Wilson, continues his recovery while the case is still working its way through the legal system).
Then a reader shared a link to an AP story a few weeks before the Multnomah incident titled, Do pets pose another threat to safe driving?. Here’s a snip from the lede:
While lawmakers have been banning drivers from texting or using cell phones, many motorists are riding around with another dangerous risk — their dogs.
Experts say an unrestrained dog — whether curled up on a lap, hanging out the window or resting its paws on the steering wheel — can be deadly. Tens of thousands of car accidents are believed caused every year by unrestrained pets, though no one has solid numbers.
A representative from Senator Burdick’s office told us this morning that this bill came out of discussions they had last session after working on cell phone use legislation. “We’re concerned about driver distraction and we’re trying to take it one step at a time.”
SB 160 is slated for a public hearing and possible work session in the Senate Business Transportation and Economic Development Committee on March 14th. We’ll keep you posted.
— See all our coverage of the 2011 legislative session here.