Driver Seat Doggie Bill Voted Down In Springfield
Pet Safety Advocate Vows To Try Again
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.”