Illinois legislators recently failed in their attempt to make it illegal for drivers to operate their vehicles with an animal loose in their lap. Specifically the effort was aimed at drivers who like to cruise around with their dog loose in the cabin of the vehicle, but all animals would have been forbidden to be allowed to roam unrestrained where the driver was operating the vehicle.

Now legislators in the state of New Jersey are seeking a similar law for drivers in their state. The law is aimed directly at countering what safety experts consider a huge risk for many drivers, whether or not they allow a pet to roam around their car loose while they drive.

For the last several months much emphasis has been placed on distracted driving and the increase in crashes caused by driver inattention. In most cases the emphasis has been placed on drivers whose attention has been drawn away by some sort of electronic device such as a cell phone or navigation equipment. But the dangers presented by drivers with a dog on their lap is no less than it is if they are talking on a cell phone. Plus, because an animal can exhibit unexpected behavior, the risk of allowing them to run loose is even greater.

The drivers who do allow their pets run loose in their vehicles represent a huge obstacle for legislators, however. They are adamant about the fact that their (usually) small dogs are not a threat to their driving and represent no increased danger to them behind the wheel. They are usually older drivers, seniors, and more likely to get inside the polling booth at election time.

The effort to force these drivers to leash their animals (at least in Illinois) was lobbied aggressively by a company which makes seat belts for animals. Surely not a coincidence. This did little to convince people the issue was as serious as legislators were trying to make it out to be.