Is there a law that prevents drivers from having dogs in their lap hanging out the window, sometimes two or three, while navigating traffic? Too many dogs at the wheel will cause an accident.
— George, via email
George, there is no law in Oregon prohibiting dogs from perching in drivers' laps, but there may be before this year's legislative session is complete in Salem. Even if the law isn't approved, a dog-in-lap driver could be ticketed, as a woman in Beaverton discovered recently.
State Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, has introduced legislation, S.B. 556, that reads, "A person commits the offense of driving with a dog in the driver’s lap if the person is operating a motor vehicle on a highway or on premises open to the public and a dog is in the person’s lap." The offense would be a Class D traffic violation, with a maximum fine of $250.
The bill has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee, but no vote has been scheduled.
There was a minor kerfuffle in 2013 when Beaverton police ticketed a woman who was driving with her dog in her lap — and who protested to a Portland TV station after she received a $160 ticket. Beaverton police, however, were unapologetic and noted that ORS 815.270 addresses the issue without specifically listing dogs. According to the agency's Facebook post, "The simple explanation of this law is that it is against the law for a driver to operate a motor vehicle with anything in his/her lap that could interfere with control of the driving mechanism ... ."
Other sources say there's good reason to be concerned. According to the Oregon Driver Education Center, "Unrestrained pets cause 30,000 collisions a year. This is dangerous not only for pets, but the passengers, as well. An unrestrained pet weighing 50 pounds in a 35-mph crash torpedoes forward with 1,500 pounds of force."
Sadly, that information has been widely ignored. According to a Washington Post article, "In a 2011 survey with a pet products company, AAA found that 17 percent of the respondents drove with dogs in their laps. Twenty-nine percent admitted being distracted by a pet, and 65 percent admitted engaging in a distracted behavior with their dog, such (as) petting it."
So, by George, George, if you want to see Oregon crack down on the driving-with-dogs danger, write or call your legislators and let them know.
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