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Fido, Lassie and a driver's lap: Is it a distraction?

The phrase "distracted driving" is a bit of a buzz word lately. Generally, the term evokes images of teens playing Pokemon Go! or posting Instagram photos with their smartphones while driving.

According to lawmakers in some states, the term should also include pet owners who choose to drive with their pet in their laps.

Really? Legislatures want to pass a law that bans having a dog on your lap while driving? It may seem like common sense, but not every driver keeps their dogs off their lap while driving. Some smaller, calmer breeds may simply nap on their owner's laps while going for a ride in the car. However, others may jump, sit-up or otherwise impede the driver's view and contribute to distraction, potentially causing a serious distracted driving crash.

Besides, isn't the mere presence of a dog on someone's lap a distraction? That is the contention of one lawmaker in Oregon. A piece in The Washington Post discusses the lawmaker's thought process behind the proposal, noting the lawmaker fronting the legislation feels it's a common sense type of policy.

Is this really a problem? Although an official study on a link between having a dog on one's lap and being distracted while driving is not available, AAA conducted a survey that noted 17 percent of respondents drove with dogs on their laps and 29 percent were distracted by a pet while driving.

Is this a new concept? No, Oregon is not the only state to consider this type of legislation. In fact, Hawaii already has a similar law in place and New Jersey has a law in place that allows drivers to be fined if they fail to properly restrain their animals.

What does this mean for victims of distracted driving accidents? This proposal highlights the wide range of distracted driving claims. Yes, smartphone use while driving is distracting, but so are many other practices. Talking with another passenger, managing children in the backseat or petting a beloved pet that is curled up on a driver's lap can all contribute to a car accident.

As a result, those who are injured in a car accident should realize that a number of distractions could contribute to the crash. If you are the victim of this type of accident, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced auto accident attorney. Your lawyer can review the details of your case and watch for signs of distraction and other forms of liability that you may not have considered.

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