Is It Okay to Drive With Your Pet on Your Lap?

Is It Okay to Drive With Your Pet on Your Lap?

Pets are important family members worldwide. You love them, and you like having them with you as much as possible. Of course, a road trip or an errand is perfect for them to tag along, but is it okay to drive with your pet on your lap?

It is not okay to have any pet of yours on your lap while you drive. The risks of them being a distraction and causing an accident are high. Even worse is how fatal an accident would be for them. They could be crushed by airbags or become projectiles through your windshield.

This article will explore the possibility of driving with your pet on your lap and if it’s otherwise okay to do so. You will also learn about the need to restrain animals in cars and go about it.

Is It Legal to Drive with Your Pet on Your Lap?

Is It Okay to Drive With Your Pet on Your Lap?

Pet owners have different reasons for driving with their pets on their laps. Some of them do it in order to calm their pets on their first car ride. Others do it to prevent their pets from being loose in the car.

While it isn’t exactly illegal in many parts, some States have laws that relate to it in a fashion. For example, distracted driving laws cover anything that keeps you from driving safely, including applying makeup, eating, or texting. Inattentive driving laws and animal cruelty laws also cater to it in a way.

In some states, the wording doesn’t specifically name pets, and in a few others, it is up to the officer’s discretion that pulls you over. Here is a brief description of what rules apply in different states:

  • Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine put driving with a pet on your lap under distracted driving laws.
  • In Washington, police officers and lawmakers consider it a “possible distraction.”
  • In Washington D.C, the distracted driving law specifically mentions interacting with pets in its description.
  • While Massachusetts’ and Hawaii’s laws are similar, only Hawaii specifies pets sitting with you in the front seat.
  • South Carolina calls it negligence and only if the officer considers the situation to be unsafe.
  • Iowa considers a pet on your lap as a contributor to obstructed view. You get a fine for defaulting.
  • Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin all file it under animal cruelty. Defaulting is a misdemeanour in some of these states and disorderly conduct in others.
  • Wisconsin also files it under inattentive driving.

Other states will be considered later. Breaking these laws also affects any insurance claim that you may seek. Punishments could be fines or citations. You should always consider the laws before you move about in a city.

Is It Okay To Drive With Your Pet On Your Lap?

Is It Okay to Drive With Your Pet on Your Lap?

Driving with your pet on your lap paints a cute picture. It may even be exciting and enjoyable for your pet. However, it is neither safe nor okay. 

A pet in the car is already enough distraction. Having one in your lap makes it even worse. An unrestrained pet in the backseat could block your view of the traffic behind you.

Dogs could bark into your ear, fidget, or whine, and cats could scurry under your feet at the brake pedals. These are situations where you have to offer comfort. Taking your eyes off the road or driving with one hand on the steering wheel makes it a little better.

In the event of an accident, deployed airbags could crush small-sized dogs and cats. Having pets in your lap could even stop the airbags from working properly to save you. Unfortunately, your pets could also be hurled out of the window at alarming speeds.

Having dogs place their heads could be dangerous for them. Sand, bugs, stones, dust, and other flying debris may get into your dog’s eyes and cause issues. In addition, dogs and cats could jump out of the window and into traffic; they are left free in your car.

You must consider safe driving for your pet, for you, and for the motorists and pedestrians who share the road with you.

Do Animals Have to Be Restrained in Cars? 

Is It Okay to Drive With Your Pet on Your Lap?

It is ideal for animals to be restrained in a moving vehicle. Having them restrained in the backseat prevents window escapes, jostling around with sharp breaks and swerves, and being missiles through your windshield if an accident happens.

Choosing a pet vehicle safety device depends on the size, temperament, and type of your pet. Examples of pet safety devices include pet cars, vehicle pet barriers, SUV seats, pet vehicle safety barriers, hard-sided pet travel kennels and crates, and soft-sided pet carriers. 

Make sure that your pets get used to the pet safety device that you opt for before you start using it. The devices you pick should be crash-tested and fit your pet correctly. This makes them comfortable and less likely to fuss while you drive. You must also keep the windows down for adequate ventilation.

All safety devices must be secured; by cargo hooks (in the beds of trucks), seatbelts, or being placed by the back seat. This prevents jostling and the crate from becoming a projectile.

There are states that find it illegal to have unrestrained animals in the vehicle. Some states like California do not require pets to be restrained within enclosed vehicles, but they require it for open-bed vehicles.

New Jersey and Rhode Island have similar laws to California, and you could get fined between $200 and $1,000 for defaulting. For unrestrained animals in an open truck bed, below is a list of states that find it illegal:

  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire 
  • Minnesota
  • Massachusetts

Make sure your pet’s safety is your number-one priority at all times while traveling in the car. You’ll be able to ensure not only your own safety but the safety of others as well. The most important aspect of pet travel is making sure you all return home together.

Gui Hadlich

Hey there, I'm Gui! These are my 2 good pals Ozzy and Luna. I've gone through the headache of figuring out what to do when either traveling with them or leaving them behind, and I know it can be a pain. I created Pets Travel Guide to make your life a bit easier when you love your pet but also love to travel!

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