Raleigh, N.C. — 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.