Arizona is now debating whether or not animals in vehicles should be restrained and how drivers who do not restrain these animals should be punished.

Recently, in and amongst the debates surrounding the use of handheld devices by drivers, others have begun focusing their attention on drivers who allow their pets, specifically dogs or lap dogs, to wander loose in the vehicle while in motion.

Opponents of this type of behavior say this is a serious danger facing motorists today because the animals are unpredictable and could easily result in the driver being distracted and causing a crash. With all the attention on distracted driving caused by handheld devices, this issue has quickly gathered steam.

Already the issue is being debated in several state legislatures including Arizona. Some states already provide for a stiff fine, sometimes as much as $250, for drivers who allow their animals to roam free. Arizona legislators have not yet said what sort of punishment they would provide for drivers who flaunt the new law (if the law passes) but they have made it clear that the issue is worth their attention and some sort of new law will likely emerge as a result of their efforts.

Arizona, Connecticut and Maine residents can be penalized under distracted-driving laws if they’re driving with a pet in their lap. In Hawaii, drivers are not allowed to drive with pets in their laps; Rhode Island and Oregon are considering doing the same.

According to a 2011 pet passenger safety survey by AAA and Kurgo pet products, 65 percent of dog owners admitted to engaging in at least one potentially distracting activity while driving with their dog.

In that group, 52 percent said that activity included petting their pet, even when the animal was in the backseat. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, looking away from the road for just two seconds can double a driver’s risk of being in a crash.

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