Driver Seat Doggie Bill Voted Down In Springfield

Pet Safety Advocate Vows To Try Again

Call it doggie distracted driving.

That’s essentially what Illinois State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) called it when motorists allow their pets to ride in their laps while driving.

Sandoval sponsored an amendment to the Illinois Vehicle Code which would prohibit motorists from such behavior and fine them $25 if caught in the act. And while Illinois would have joined Hawaii in outlawing driving with Fido on your lap, the measure got voted down 21-27 last Thursday.

“I was disappointed, but not shocked as it moved very quickly so we didn’t have much time to rally support,” explained Chicago resident Melissa Ramirez who had lobbied Sandoval to sponsor the legislation.

It seems, according to AAA Motor Club, dogs make driving dangerous.

AAA claims 30,000 accidents a year can be attributed to unrestrained dogs in the car and strongly encourages pet owning drivers to utilize some sort of restraint when driving with their dog.

In addition, a recent AAA study reports that 84% of respondents have driven with a pet in the car, with 65% admitting to participating in pet induced distracted behavior like petting their dog (54%) and 17% of the drivers surveyed drove with their dog sitting on their lap.

Only 16% of respondents claimed to have used a restraint on their dog while driving, while other studies claim it’s much lower and perhaps closer to 5%.

“Unrestrained dogs are not only a danger to themselves, but they are even more dangerous to others in the car, especially young children,” says Ramirez. “A 10 pound dog has the force of 80 pounds, when moving at only 40 mph. In addition, unrestrained dogs have been cited as a top 3 reason for distracted drivers.”

Ramirez is passionate on the subject, as she has had first hand experience with the danger of driving with an unrestrained canine in the car. Back in 2008, her husband was involved in a car accident which resulted in her dog Max becoming paralyzed.

A year later, Ramirez started Zerimax a company which manufactures and sells restraints for dogs riding in motor vehicles.

“It started with an accident, where my dog was paralyzed, which evolved into a product,” says Ramirez. “The idea for Doggie Seatbelt, a specially developed restraint for small dogs, is what spawned the company.”

Despite the loss in the Senate, Ramirez remains undeterred and plans to push for the law again.

“We will be going in for round two next year,” says Ramirez. “I see it as an extension of the seat belt laws & distracted driver laws, it starts to take into account our dogs. About half of the population has pets, and they travel more an more with us, so it’s time that the laws reflect it.”

Ramirez has plans to spread the word through safety clinics she’ll be holding this summer.

“In addition, I will be running Dog Seatbelt Safety Clinics all summer long at Chicago’s street festivals, bringing awareness, education, and tips,” she says. “This will allow me to touch a lot of people in various neighborhoods in Chicago and ideally get them to reach out to their legislators.”

Photograph courtesy and copyright AAA.

7 Responses to Driver Seat Doggie Bill Voted Down In Springfield

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  3. Pete says:

    Chicago city council will pass a bill like this for sure. They never resist an opportunity to fine people for petty bullshit.

  4. Would the dog, the driver or both of them get the ticket. After all the dog has a license too! We have to put a leash
    On our legislators..

  5. Sue says:

    I will quit driving with my small dog in my lap, when smokers quit smoking while driving. Their is no excuse to smoke while you drive… If your that addicted to the stupid things slap a patch on your back and get on with it. Quit picking on us dog lovers… At least we are not polluting the environment and making the roads stink if we have our windows down.

  6. David says:

    Its a safety issue for the dog as well. If you love your pet, as most of us do, you don’t want to put them in the position where a relatively minor accident becomes lethal. An airbag deploying will kill the dog. And its not that hard to trigger an airbag. I would never drive with a child not secured in an appropriate restraint away from the airbags, and I would never ever drive with a dog in the front seat let alone on my lap. (Okay… in my old Delta 88 without airbags… the front seat’s okay.. but not my lap…)

    That being said, its often not possible to regulate stupidity.

  7. Pat L says:

    Interesting that no one has pointed out the blatant conflict of interest by Ramirez. Sure, lobby for the law to be changed, so you can profit by selling more of the dog restraints you designed through your company Zerimax once the law IS changed (if that ever happens). She loses credibility with me right there. She’s more interested in profits than the altruistic safety of pets.

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