Is it Legal to Drive with Your Pet in Your Car?

It may once have been that driving under the influence was the biggest safety concern on American roads, but today it seems that distracted driving is the number one danger. Distracted driving can encompass many things including eating, using a cell phone, applying makeup, or any other activity that takes driver’s attention away from the road. Over the past several years, texting and driving has become a particularly dangerous issue, costing several lives and resulting in 42 state passing laws and creating campaigns against the practice. That being said, it seems there is a new danger on the roads that has actually been around for quite some time – people driving with a pet sitting on their lap.

The Issue

While there are not any solid statistics to confirm how many car accidents have been the result of people driving cars with a pet on their lap, the potential for danger is no less real. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a driver needs to only take his or her eyes off the road for two seconds to double the chance of a car accident. It only takes a couple of seconds for a frightened or excited pet to suddenly climb up on to a driver’s neck, try to jump out of the car window, claw or scratch the driver, or crawl off the driver’s lap under the brake pedal.

A survey conducted by AAA revealed that almost 60% of those surveyed had driven in their vehicles with their pets in the prior month. As much as 31% of those surveyed acknowledged they were distracted while driving with their pet in their vehicle. The most common distractions noted include feeding the pet, reaching to the backseat to interact with the pet, petting the animal, and/or taking a photo of the pet. Moreover, one in five respondents admitted holding their pet or allowing the pet to sit on their lap while they were behind the wheel. Finally, 23% of those surveyed acknowledged using their hands or arms to try and secure their pet when they had to brake.

The Dangers

There are several reasons why a pet owner may choose not to restrain the animal while traveling in the car. One of the biggest issues is the animal’s perceived temperament; in other words, if the animal was calm, then there is no need to restrain him or her. Some people do not consider restraining their pets an option, while others feel short trips do not require it, or simply want their pet to be able to enjoy the scenery and put his or her head out the car window. It is true that a potential accident should be reason enough not to drive with a pet on your lap. There are, however, even more serious dangers that support reconsidering not restraining an animal while driving. If a Las Vegas car accident were to happen, a small pet could easily be crushed and killed by an airbag. A pet may be thrown out of the vehicle and seriously (or fatally) injured.

The Law

States across the nation, including Nevada, have taken notice of the potential dangers on the road when people drive their vehicles with their pets on their lap. Nevada – in addition to New Jersey and Washington – has animal cruelty laws that make it illegal to improperly transport an animal. This law can be applied to those who drive with a pet on their lap, though it may not be strictly enforced.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a Nevada car accident – whether or not you had your pet on your lap when the crash occurred - contact the experienced attorneys at Parry & Pfau. With years of experience fighting for the injured across the state of Nevada, these skilled attorneys will fight for the compensation you deserve.

(image courtesy of Drew Beamer)