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Lawmakers Looking to Give Distracted Driving Law More Bite

Posted on behalf of Mark F. Griffin of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Feb 14, 2015 in Car Accidents

Here in Connecticut, lawmakers have historically taken a very strong stance against distracted driving. It all started ten years ago with the passage of the hands-free law and has continued up through 2013, which saw the maximum monetary penalty for distracted driving offenders rise to $1,000 and the Department of Motor Vehicles vested with the authority to impose points against their driver's licenses.

Now, it appears that some lawmakers are looking to strengthen the state's distracted driving laws even further. This time, however, the targeted danger isn't electronic devices, but rather man's best friend.

Sen. Paul Doyle (D-Wethersfield) has introduced a bill that would prohibit all motorists from having their pets on their laps while operating a motor vehicle, and assess offenders the same penalties as they would receive for talking or texting on a cell phone while driving.

The bill, which has advanced to the General Assembly's Transportation Committee, has already gained the support of many people, who say it would protect not just motorists and pedestrians, but the animals themselves.

Indeed, the Connecticut Humane Society has already backed the measure, saying pets should not be loose in the car, but properly restrained by a harness or put in a crate.

The passage of Sen. Doyle's bill is by no means guaranteed. At least one member of the General Assembly's Distracted Driving Task Force has expressed doubt given the surprising lack of statistics from either the State Police or other sources on just how often animals are responsible for distracted driving crashes.

What are your thoughts on this measure? Should people be banned from keeping their pets in their laps while driving or are state lawmakers overreaching?