We’ve all seen them, cars with a cute dog riding down the road in their owner’s lap, the happy creature’s tongue wagging and its face in the wind, seemingly smiling and enjoying the ride. Unfortunately, many of those dogs’ owners are unaware of the dangers of driving with an unrestrained pet in their vehicle, and oblivious to Hawaii’s law that explicitly prohibits drivers from keeping pets in their lap.
Hawaii is one of only a handful of states that has legislation in place that prohibits driving with a pet in your lap. In Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine, distracted driving laws, the kind that prohibit the use of cell phones while driving, can be used to charge drivers with pets in their laps. In New Jersey, SPCA officials can stop drivers they believe are improperly transporting an animal and issue fines of up to $1000.
According to the Honolulu statute, drivers with a dog in their lap can receive a $97 fine, and drivers with an unrestrained animal in their vehicle can receive a $57 fine. In Honolulu, driving with an unrestrained pet in the bed of a truck is also illegal.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, dogs do not have to be confined to a carrier while being transported. There are a variety of pet restraint products, such as harnesses and tethers, available to pet owners that can keep pets and their owners safe while still allowing the animal to enjoy the ride.
And while pets and their owner often enjoy a drive together, an unrestrained pet can cause dangerous distractions with a lick to the face, or getting between a drivers feet, severely limiting control of the vehicle.
A survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance has found that eight percent of drivers admitted to driving with a pet in their lap. And while doing so poses the threat of distraction for the driver (and possibly for other drivers), an unrestrained pet in a vehicle becomes a dangerous projectile in the event of a motor vehicle collision. Bark Buckle UP, a non-profit pet advocacy group, says that in a 35 mile per hour accident, an unrestrained 60-pound dog would carry the force of a 2,700 pound object.
Hawaii drivers should treat their animals as humans while driving, and make sure their pet is properly secured.