Dear Street Smarts,
Q: It appears that there are a number of dog owners driving around the area that do not understand that an unrestrained dog in a vehicle could be severely injured in an accident. I’ve seen people with lap dogs in the driver’s lap and dogs sitting in the passenger seat or hanging out the window as they speed by not thinking about what may happen to their pooch in an accident if the air bag deploys. I’m sure you know more about this than I do, please pass on the information to your readers.
Mike Malbon, Santa Cruz
A: Indeed, dogs are unpredictable and can be a distraction.
The California Driver Handbook reports a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-collisions involve some form of driver distraction. The distraction occurred about three seconds before the crash.
The issue of pets in vehicles is “a concern for the driver’s safety and the safety of those sharing the road with them,” said officer Sarah Jackson, spokesperson for the CHP’s Aptos office. “Animals can become a real distraction and cause collisions – especially if they bump your arm, block your view, or get down onto the driver’s floorboard.”
Meanwhile, Lt. John Hohmann of the Scotts Valley Police department thinks “there should be a law forbidding” drivers from having unrestrained pets in their vehicle.
He cited California Vehicle Code section 23117, which states that:
“(a) No person driving a motor vehicle shall transport any animal in the back of the vehicle in a space intended for any load on the vehicle on a highway unless the space is enclosed or has side and tail racks to a height of at least 46 inches extending vertically from the floor, the vehicle has installed means of preventing the animal from being discharged, or the animal is cross tethered to the vehicle, or is protected by a secured container or cage, in a manner which will prevent the animal from being thrown, falling, or jumping from the vehicle.
“(b) This section does not apply to any of the following:
- The transportation of livestock.
- The transportation of a dog whose owner either owns or is employed by a ranching or farming operation who is traveling on a road in a rural area or who is traveling to and from a livestock auction.
- The transportation of a dog for purposes associated with ranching or farming.”