Calif. bill bans driving with dogs on lap

From The Associated Press:

First they came for your cell phone. Now, the dog.

The California state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would make it illegal for drivers to keep pets on their laps.

Visalia, Calif., Assembly Member Bill Maze has taken plenty of grief from his fellow Republicans for pushing the bill, including conservative radio star Rush Limbaugh. But Maze did not back off, calling it a safety issue.

“If you have an animal that gets in your face or gets tangled up in your steering wheel while you’re driving, you can’t properly control (the car),” he told the Sacramento Bee earlier this year.

AB 2233 passed the Senate on a 21-17 vote, with only one Republican vote, Sen. Tom Harmon, R-Huntington Beach. The Assembly has already passed the bill but must agree to minor changes before the legislation heads to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk. The governor has not taken a position.

The bill is the latest attempt by lawmakers to eliminate driving distractions. Legislation that took effect this summer bans the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

Maze’s bill would start July 1 and prohibit drivers from “holding a live animal in his or her arm or arms, or upon his or her lap.” Fines would start at $35. Animals are the ninth-ranked cause of driver distraction, according to the bill’s analysis.

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