Is It Legal To Drive With A Pet In Your Lap In California?

Is It Legal To Drive With A Pet In Your Lap In California?

We see it all the time. A cute little dog riding on an owner’s lap, its head out the window, while the owner is driving. We may think it is cute, but it can be dangerous as well. California has no specific law prohibiting the practice. However, having a dog on your lap while driving can cause conditions that may make it dangerous or illegal to drive.

What California Law Says About Pets Traveling in Cars

California law states that a pet may be unrestrained within an enclosed vehicle. That means it does not need to be crated or restrained with a pet seat belt inside a car. Beyond this basic law, however, a driver should make sure that their pet is safe within the vehicle and must make sure that it is safe to drive with the pet in the vehicle.  

Note that a pet must be restrained when riding in an unenclosed space such as a flat-bed truck. This makes sense and is safer for the pet involved. This means that a pet must be crated, and the crate secured when the pet is riding in the back of a pickup.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is prohibited in California. Distracted driving in California is more than just texting or using a cell phone while driving. Any activity which distracts the driver from paying attention to the road and which may cause the driver to either lose control of the vehicle or cause an accident is considered to be “distracted driving” in California.

California is cracking down on distracted driving. The California High Patrol is giving out more citations for distracted driving practices including eating, applying makeup, and the like. A pet in the lap of a driver could well earn the driver a citation for distracted driving.  

A pet can be a distraction in a car. This is especially true when the pet rides on the driver’s lap while driving. The owner may pet the dog and may look down at the pet instead of keeping their eyes on the road. If the pet barks suddenly near the driver’s ear, the driver could be startled and lose control of the car.

In California, if an accident occurs because of distracted driving, the driver can also be cited for reckless driving or driving too fast for the conditions. This increases the fines involved. A distracted driving ticket for a first offense can run upwards of $100 for a first offense once fees and surcharges are added.

A new law, AB 47 goes into effect in July 2021. The new law will increase penalties for distracted driving. More importantly, the bill will enable a point to be added to a driving record with each infraction. With enough points, a person may lose their driving privilege in California.

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in California. It is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to $1000 in fines.

Distracted Driving and Negligence

Distracted driving is at the bottom of many California car accidents. In 2018 alone, 2481 people in the U.S. died in car accidents due to distracted driving. Driving with a pet on the driver’s lap opens a driver to a lawsuit for negligence if an accident results. We all owe a duty of reasonable care to pedestrians and other drivers when we are driving. This duty of reasonable care is arguably breached when a driver is distracted and gets into an accident.

Pet Injuries

Another possible consequence of driving with a pet on a driver’s lap concerns injuries to the pet if an accident takes place. When a collision occurs, the weight and force of movement of the driver’s torso against the interior of the vehicle is tremendous. It can result in injuries or death to an animal located on the driver’s lap.

Likewise, airbags can cause severe injuries or death for an animal in the front seat.  This is why most pet harnessing systems are designed for use in the rear seat of a vehicle. Driving with a pet in your lap is not only dangerous for you, but also for your pet.

Animal Cruelty and Pets in Cars

Most animal cruelty charges brought with regard to pets in cars have to do with pets who are injured or die in hot cars. Charges may be brought against the owner for injuries or death to a pet that occurred because of an owner’s reckless behavior. Fines are substantial if convicted and an owner may lose their ability to own another pet.

Make Smart Choices When Driving With Pets in the Car

Sometimes, what seems like benign behavior can open doors to unintended consequences. Always take care to ensure your pet’s safety in your car. By doing so, you can ensure not only your own safety but the safety of others on the road. If you have questions regarding distracted driving or the culpability in a vehicular accident, make sure to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area.

Many Cities, Schools Embracing "Look Up, Look Out" Campaigns

Many Cities, Schools Embracing “Look Up, Look Out” Campaigns

With distracted driving more prominent than ever before, communities are doing what they can to keep their neighborhood safe. Especially with schools in session and students commuting to and from class, many educational institutions prioritize the safety of young minds

That is why schools all over the country are embracing the “Look Up, Look Out” campaign. 

This initiative aims to raise awareness of distracted driving and encourage responsible navigation on and around campuses.

What Is The “Look Up, Look Out” Campaign?

With over 6,200 pedestrian fatalities from traffic-related incidents in 2018, distracted driving continues to threaten our community members’ safety and well-being. Schools are doing everything they can to educate families about safe driving practices, especially as more students walk to and from school. Despite clear crosswalks and traffic signals that aim to protect the safety of both pedestrians and bicyclists, parents and their children are still at risk when navigating on foot.

The “Look Up, Look Out” campaign serves as a reminder for both drivers and pedestrians to put safety above all else. It aspires to bring further attention to the hazard of distracted driving and offer tools for pedestrians to remain safe during high-traffic times of the day. 

This campaign hopes to reach both the drivers behind the wheel and reinforce to pedestrians the importance of staying alert while crossing the street. Although smartphones can be a helpful tool for navigation, they pull attention away from where it needs to be: the road.

How Can I Protect Myself As A Pedestrian?

There are several ways to ensure your safety while navigating as a pedestrian: 

Follow the rules of the road

Just because you are a pedestrian and have the legal right-of-way does not mean that you do not have to adhere to certain expectations of responsibility. Use crosswalks where they are accessible and wait for the walk signal to indicate when it is safest to cross.

Use sidewalks when possible

Sidewalks are the safest place for pedestrians as there is often a greater distance between you and any moving vehicles. If sidewalks are not available, it is safest to walk as far from the road as possible in the opposite direction as traffic. That is, make sure you can see that the driver coming towards you recognizes your presence.

Limit distractions

Even though you may not be behind the wheel, it can be dangerous to navigate while distracted. Without your eyes on the sidewalk or road, it is possible to veer into traffic, step into a pothole, or fail to recognize an oncoming distracted driver.

 It is best to limit any distractions, even as a pedestrian, and keep your eyes on the road at all times. Additionally, do not navigate while under the influence or otherwise intoxicated as it may impair your depth-perception and abilities to react swiftly.

Assume drivers cannot see you

Rather than anticipate that all drivers will give you the right-of-way, it is best to assume that you are not visible from behind the wheel. If a crosswalk or an otherwise accessible intersection is not available to cross a major road, be sure to leave enough of a gap in between vehicles to make it across safely. 

Additionally, try to prioritize places of crossing that have better lighting and the most strategic view of traffic. It is also a good idea to wear reflective or otherwise noticeable clothing, especially at night.

It is critical that you talk with your family about how to stay safe on the road as a pedestrian and reiterate that safety is the responsibility of both drivers and local foot traffic.

What If I Am Injured As A Pedestrian?

If you or someone you know is injured in a traffic accident, contact a personal injury lawyer to determine whether you may be entitled to compensation, including medical assistance. Work with the police to file a report detailing the incident’s critical elements, including notating any apparent distractions. Seek medical attention for any injuries, and consult with your personal injury lawyer to address any concerns regarding further legal action.

Teen Driving Laws in California: What Every Teen Driver & Parent Should Know

Teen Driving Laws in California: What Every Teen Driver & Parent Should Know

Almost uniformly, teens look forward to getting a driver’s license. For them, it is a step toward greater freedom and independence. 

For their parents, it is a time of worry and concern.

This is a time when teens also explore alcohol and drug use.

When alcohol or drugs are mixed with driving, the result can be deadly. Therefore, California regulates teen driving.

 Here is what every teen driver and parent should know about teen driving laws in California.

California Teen Driving Permits and Licensing

Like many other states, California uses a Graduated Licensing Program to introduce teens to driving safely. This graduated approach allows a permitting process and training to begin before a teen driver may be licensed. To get a permit to drive a teen must be at least 15 ½ years old.  

A teen may apply for a permit to drive once they have completed an approved driver’s education program that teaches traffic laws, road safety, driver responsibilities, and avoiding accidents. The programs must have either 30 hours or 2 1/2 semesters of classroom instruction conducted by a professional. 

Alternatively, a teen may complete this training with an approved  internet training program. Once a teen gets a permit, he or she must have 50 hours of driving education behind the wheel of a car within 6 months of obtaining the permit. Once that is completed, a teen may take their driving test at age 16.

Restrictions on a Teen License in California

A teen’s driver’s license is restricted for the first year. The license is provisional. Teens are prohibited from driving from 11:00 P.M. to 5:00 A.M. This is when the risk of accidents, especially those involving drugs or alcohol, are highest. When a teen driver has a passenger who isn’t yet 20 years old, there are additional restrictions.

The teen driver must also be transporting a:

  • Certified driving instructor
  • Parent or guardian (with a valid California license), or
  • Licensed driver who is at least 25 years of age. 

Once a teen turns 18, the restrictions can be removed.  

Exceptions to Teen Driving Restrictions in California

There are several exceptions to these restrictions. In order to qualify for a restriction, a teen must be driving for an accepted reason and have written permission to do so. There are exceptions for:

  • Medical necessity: Requires a doctor’s note.
  • School: The note must be signed by the school principal or dean.
  • Employment: The teen must have a note from the employer.
  • Family member necessity: Note must be signed by parent.

Emancipated minors are treated somewhat differently. An emancipated teen must provide the DMV with emancipation court orders and must provide proof of insurance.

Penalties for Violating Teen Driving Restrictions in California

The DMV tracks a teen’s driving record and provisional license. Using its point system, the DMV assigns point values for accidents, traffic tickets, and arrests. Consequences for violations are as follows:

  • A traffic ticket and failure to appear in court results in loss of a teen’s driving privilege until they appear in court.
  • One  collision in which the teen is at fault, or a conviction of a traffic law violation within 12 months will result in a DMV warning letter.
  • If the teen has two collisions in which they are at fault or two traffic convictions within 12 months, results in a loss of a teen’s driving privilege for 30 days. In that case, the teen may only drive if accompanied by a licensed parent or other licensed adult over the age of 25.
  • Three such collisions or traffic law violations within 12 months results in a suspended license for 6 months and one year of probation.
  • Four or more such collisions or traffic law violations while on probation results in further suspension.
  • An alcohol or a controlled substance use conviction between the ages of 13 and 21 years results in a suspended driver’s license for 1 year or a delay in a teen’s eligibility to apply for a driver’s license.

Both parents and teens need to be aware of these consequences. It is best to understand the law before  a teen begins driving. Courts and the DMV are strict in applying consequences.

Teen Drivers and Cell Phones in California

Teens are glued to their cell phones.

In California, it is against the law for a teen to use a cell phone or any other electronic wireless device while driving.

That means that a teen may not answer a call or a text and may not initiate a call or text while driving unless there is an emergency.

Knowing your rights and responsibilities behind the wheel is important at every stage of your driving life. Setting a successful path helps. If your teen does get arrested driving under the influence, you need a criminal lawyer. Knowing the law always helps.