Drivers could be fined if Fido's behind the wheel

Posted February 8
Updated February 9

— One state lawmaker wants drivers to focus on braking rather than barking when they're behind the wheel.

House Bill 73 would make it an infraction to "operate a vehicle on a public street, highway, or public vehicular area while holding a live animal in the person's lap."

Presumably, that covers dogs and cats, along with more exotic animals.

The penalty would be a $100 bite out of an offender's wallet, plus court costs, although a violator wouldn't accumulate driver's license points as a result.

Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, filed the bill and is currently the lone sponsor.

"If that animal gets spooked, you're going to have a problem," Pierce said during a brief interview Wednesday. "The passenger and the animal could be hurt if you're in an accident."

This would not be the first time he's tackled distracted driving. Pierce has been the primary sponsor of bills banning texting while driving.

He pointed to news reports of accidents caused by animals riding in drivers' laps and said there were other states that had taken similar steps.

"I had some constituents talking about it, that's where I get a lot of my ideas," Pierce said. "It protects the motorist. It protects the animal. It's just common sense."

Pet owner Wendy Wensel admitted that she often lets her little dog sit in her lap as she drives.

"It makes it kind of difficult sometimes, but he just sits right here and he just stays on that shoulder, but he's just a baby," she said.

The proposal generated heated debate on social media, with some applauding the idea and others saying that focus should be placed instead on combating drunk driving or using mobile phones behind the wheel. Wensel, however, agreed the bill is a good idea.

"It does cause dangerous situations, especially if they move around. You never know if they'll get between your feet where your peddles are, so yeah, I feel that's a good idea," she said.


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  • Jackie Davis Feb 11, 2:19 a.m.
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    There are some very serious issues with animal welfare and the safety of humans. I have pictures from this past weekend and the story that goes with it if WRAL or anyone is interested in educating Mr. Pierce, and Mr. Butterfield in particular as this incident happened in his district, about reality of the sad state of animal welfare in the state of NC and the danger it presents to their constituents and their children. Please don't let time be wasted on something so frivolous as a pet laying on a driver's lap when animals are being abused, tethered with weighted chains 24/7 and then grow to be vicious and dangerous to human's when they break loose and roam. A 7 year old child was attacked this past Sunday, the family has done everything they can, the child is having to take they series of rabies shots after having stitched on three different areas of his little body. This is Friday night. We have not heard from anyone since we called them Tuesday and the dog was not located.

  • Marie Brandsdorfer Feb 9, 11:00 a.m.
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    I see a mxture of both women and men.
    It really makes me angry to be cut off by someone talking on there darn phone.

  • Marie Brandsdorfer Feb 9, 10:55 a.m.
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    These are more pressing issues.
    I have 3 dogs and have been a life long dog owner and they do not sit in my lap.

  • Gary Thompson Feb 9, 7:13 a.m.
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    I agree. I drive a dump truck and several times a day i have to take action to avoid a driver that is on a phone. We have to have a blue tooth hands free devuce to even talk or get a major fine of over 1000 dollars so why should your car be any different.

  • Gary Thompson Feb 9, 7:10 a.m.
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  • Ed Ray Feb 9, 5:20 a.m.
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    No. It is about time that they make a law about people on their phone while they are driving. I am not really worried about a dog that is sitting on someone's lap. I am worried about the people to busy to drive right because they are talking or texting on their phone.

  • Kiara Babel Feb 9, 5:16 a.m.
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    It's about time , people should be ticketed for driving around with a animal in their lap. One reason if the air bag deploys most likely the animal dies and the driver will suffer greater injury. It's just common sense. And if they have to react fast to a situation the animal is in the way.

  • Joan Price Feb 9, 12:07 a.m.
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    I had a dog ten years ago that sat on my left leg as I drove . I let him do that because he was calm and never caused a problem in his twelve years of life. I would not have done it if he had moved,got sppooked, or gotten aggitated at other animals. I have other animals that I would not let do this. I think this bill is just someone looking for publicity.

  • John White Feb 8, 10:43 p.m.
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    Hmm dog in your lap would be against the law. But you can use your cell phone while driving which is more distracting and dangerous but that is OK? Someone has their priorities wrong here.

  • Robin Cubbon Feb 8, 9:34 p.m.
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    i'd like to see a law against dogs in the open bed of a truck. i've been going down 15-501 or 85 and had a dog going from one edge to another at 60 mph. one good bump or quick move and the dog would be on the highway. it is so stressful to be behind someone doing this. it is so dangerous for other drivers and the dog.