Unrestrained pets added to distracted driving law in New Jersey

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Dog in car

Dog owners in New Jersey can now be fined for distracted driving if driving with unrestrained pets. Photo Credit: Mike Roberts from London, England/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

The state of New Jersey recently made an addition to its laws against distracted driving, which other states are starting to follow. The law mandates that any pets have to be restrained in a car, otherwise the driver faces a distracted driving fine of up to $1,000.

Doggone it

Distracted driving is a danger to motorists and authorities, such as the federal government and the governments of the various states, are doing more to combat it. Talking on cellular phones to more egregious behavior such as texting while driving are subject to a growing number of restrictions. Other countries are in on the act as well.

The reasons are obvious; such behaviors endanger driver and passengers as well as other motorists; one cannot shoot a gun anywhere they please, nor should dangerous driving be tolerated.

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Another thing which may be distracting drivers, though, is seemingly far more innocuous: the family pet. The state of New Jersey, according to the Daily Mail, mandates any pets be secured in a vehicle or the driver can be fined.

Prized pooch can cost a pretty penny

A survey by AAA found that 31 percent of respondents admit to being distracted by having a pet in the car while driving and that 20 percent allow their dog to sit in their laps while driving. Ostensibly some are allowing the dog to feel the breeze. Allowing a pet to sit between the driver and the steering wheel can certainly be distracting, not to mention a likely death sentence for the dog in an accident.

To that end, the state of New Jersey has included pets in its distracted driving ordinances, which mandates that pets have to be secured while traveling in vehicles. The law includes all pets, so pet lizards or birds are not allowed to perch upon a driver’s shoulders, nor are cats allowed to sun bathe on the dash. The ordinance also, according to Fox News Radio, any pets riding in the bed of a pickup truck. The law was created, according to the Daily Mail, by New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission, in conjunction with the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Infractions will cost between $250 to $1,000, per animal. If egregious enough, the charge may be amended to disorderly conduct and animal cruelty, according to Fox News Radio. Implements for securing pets are assuredly much cheaper.

Similar laws

New Jersey is not alone in a measure of this kind, according to USA Today. Hawaii currently forbids drivers from operating a vehicle while a pet is in their lap. A bill that would similarly prohibit operating a vehicle while a pet is sitting in the driver’s lap is currently being proposed in Rhode Island. Additionally, the states of Arizona, Maine and Connecticut have provisions in those states’ distracted driving laws that can result in a motorist being cited for distracted driving if driving with a pet in their lap.


Daily Mail

Fox News Radio

USA Today

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