A sensible law that would have banned driving with a pet in your lap was vetoed a few days ago by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has previously supported bans on texting while driving and driving with a cellphone in your hand. (AP report, Sept. 28, 2008; and npr’s Morning Edition, Sept. 29, 2008) As f/k/a has campaigned for laws prohibiting DWP and DWT, we perked up our ears and decided to sniff out the story behind Arnold’s veto. (And, as we’re also putting off writing a much more complicated and serious piece, this posting grew into a major production.)
A primary source for this post is the article “Schwarzenegger vetoes bill forbidding drivers to hold pets” (Sept. 28, 2008), in the Sunday Sacramento Bee, which has the most thorough discussion we’ve been able to locate on the context and pros and cons of the Bill, AB 2233. The ban included a base fine of $35, which could have risen to $150 with state and county fees. According to the London Telegraph,
“The driving-with-animals bill was backed by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles but ridiculed as the ‘Paris Hilton bill’ by critics who described it as unwarranted interference by government.”
The law in question has been derisively called the “Paris Hilton bill,” because many celebrities are among the folk who are so attached to their pets and so self-absorbed, they’re willing to endanger the animal and others on the road in order to keep them snuggled in their laps while maneuvering large, fast-moving objects down our highways. Predictably, according to the Bee, “Talk show host Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives ridiculed the lap-dog measure as excessive government” and a deprivation of some important liberty. Nonetheless, Gov. Schwarzenegger has given no indication that he opposed the law on its merits. Instead, the veto — among dozens more this signing period — was part of his current policy to sign only “highest priority” laws so long as the California Legislature fails to pass a much-delayed budget.
Disclaimer: The f/k/a Gang has not examined the 114 bills Arnold did sign on Saturday, to compare their urgency and importance to AB 2233 and the 94 other bills he vetoed.
only the dog’s face
……… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue
the nodding dog
springs to life
.. by Matt Morden – Morden Haiku (October 5, 2005)
Granted, this bill would not have been my own highest legislative priority this year, but it is not frivolous, and once the work has been done to get it to the Governor’s desk, it should have been signed. (If we only did the most important things in life, an awful lot of worthwhile efforts would never be made.) The bill’s author, Assemblyman Bill Maze, who appears to be a conservative Republican from Visalia, has sponsored a lot of legislation. He proposed AB 2233 after seeing a Tulare County woman driving with three dogs on her lap.
Maze argues: “You’ve got a live animal that has a mind of its own . . . It can get tangled in the steering wheel or pinned between your knees. It can create a real hazard for yourself and everyone else.”
And, the Bee reports:
- “A traffic collision at 40 mph can hurtle a 25-pound dog through a vehicle with the force of a 1,000-pound object, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.”
- “California Highway Patrol statistics show that four people were killed and 346 others injured in collisions from 2001 to 2007 due to driver inattention caused by an animal. No breakdown exists of how many were in their owner’s lap.” And,
- “Nationwide Mutual Insurance found in a 2006 survey that 8 percent of drivers had held a pet while behind the wheel.”
- “State law currently allows drivers to be cited if their vision is obstructed or a distraction causes them to violate a rule of the road – but not simply for holding an animal. . . . Pets must be secured in the back of a pickup but can roam freely inside a vehicle.”
Opponents say the bill amounts to excessive nannyism, and that such matters need to be left to the common sense judgment of the individual. Of course, that’s the problem in the America of the 21st Centry: Far too many people either have absolutely no common sense or choose to ignore it and follow their personal whim, regardless of the risk created for injury to others.
an old retriever
laps the wind
… by Tom Painting - The Heron’s Nest 5.5 (May 2003)
.. According to the Bee, critics of the lapdog driving ban also insist that “Quieting a whining or scared pet on your lap, while driving, can be safer than to be distracted by an animal’s barking, fidgeting or misbehavior in a back seat.” Of course, that proves too much — we wouldn’t buy this argument if it were a child or significant other who was misbehaving. More to the point, it suggests a very good reason why a pet that is likely to be fidgety or upset while in a car should either be left at home or safely secured in a seat.
In an AutoBlog posting called “Governator vetos ban on lap-dogs while driving” (Sept. 29, 2008), Jonathan Ramsey observed yesterday:
“While we understand the spirit of the veto — California does have much bigger issues to deal with than lapdogs — we do sometimes wonder why a 40-pound kid has to be in a child seat, but a 40-pound, unpredictable animal can take a nap between you and the steering wheel.”
Heather at The Food Bowl weblog went into more detail, when the bill first got publicity last Spring, in her post “No More Doggies Out the Window” (May 13, 2008):
.. ….”To be honest I think this is a good move. Keeping your pet restrained either in a carrier or pet-specific seat harness while in a moving vehicle not only keeps them safe but you as well.
“Restraining your pet helps you concentrate, and what happens if you’re in an accident? Your pet could be injured from the impact (and so could you with a now-flying canine in the car!) or if it manages to get out of the car it could run away. Do you really need Fluffy on your lap for that ten minute drive?”
Similarly, when the legislation was proposed, a post at Pet Industry Insight, a weblog of the American Pet Products Association, explained:
“The issue of concern is that lapdogs are distracting and could put motorists at risk. A live animal can scamper between the driver and the steering wheel or underneath the brake pedal causing major driving implications. Not only are unrestrained pets a threat to the driver, but they too, face danger if not buckled in. Pets see the same risk a child (or any passenger for that matter) would if an accident occurred, which is why if Maze’s bill passes, drivers caught with their Chihuahuas or Poodles unrestrained will pay a penalty.”
Pet Industry Insight (which, naturally, promotes pet-related products) then asks: “So how should drivers keep their pets in place if they can’t be on their laps or in the passenger seat?” [for the answer, and much more, including some haiku and senryu, go below the fold]