‘Ask Evan’: Is it against the law to drive a vehicle with your pet in your lap?

This week's 'Ask Evan' question is about pets in cars.  Pam from Camp Hill asks, "Is it against the law to drive a vehicle with your pet in your lap or hanging out the driver's side window?  It seems unsafe to do so, but is not illegal?

I checked with both PennDOT and a local police chief to get the answer.  PennDOT says there is nothing in the law that specifically says you cannot drive with your pet in your lap.  However, it is most definitely not the wisest choice for several reasons.

If you are involved in a frontal crash and your air bag deploys with a pet in your lap, that's a problem.  It's recommended that the driver be at least ten inches away from the steering wheel. If you have you taken up that space with a pet, that will most likely result in serious injury or death to the pet, and in turn more serious injury to the driver because the airbag will not provide the proper protection.

You also risk the dog being thrown out the window if you have to jam on the brakes for any reason.  Assuming you wear a seat belt to save your life or protect yourself from being badly injured-- why wouldn't you want to protect the life of your pet when they are more like family to most people?  There are harnesses made for dogs and carriers that are designed to be installed with seat belts.

The local police chief I contacted agreed.  He says its situational.  For example, if a driver is involved in an accident where the animal could have been distracting to the driver then they could be cited.  However, it's not, currently illegal to drive with an animal in your lap.   House bill 749 is in the transportation committee in Harrisburg that would make it illegal to have any animal in your lap while driving.   The legislation has not come up for vote in committee as of yet.

If you have a question you'd like to ask, send me an email at AskEvan@FOX43.com.  Put 'Ask Evan' in the subject line.  You can also reach out to me on my Facebook page, Evan Forrester FOX43.  Whatever the topic I'll do my best to track down answers you are looking for.