Under a new state law, New Jersey drivers who fail to properly restrain their pets in the car could face criminal charges and financial penalties. The goal of the new restraint requirement is to reduce the number of car accidents caused by drivers who are distracted by their pets, and to protect animals from harm in the event of a crash. In a 2010 AAA survey, more than 31 percent of drivers said that they were distracted by their dog while driving.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were the driving forces behind the new law, under which animals are forbidden from hanging out car windows and riding in pickup truck beds. In addition, animals riding in vehicles must be properly restrained in specially-designed pet seatbelts.
People who violate the law could receive fines of up to $1,000 for each offense. That means if you have more than one unrestrained pet in your vehicle, you could be forced to pay multiple fines. In addition, drivers may be charged with a criminal offense, such as disorderly conduct under state animal cruelty statutes.
Several drivers have criticized the law, calling it ridiculous and overreaching. But according to Elyse Coffey of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, the law is about protecting both people and pets. "[Animal restraints] are not constraining," she said. "They simply prevent an animal - in case of a horrible accident - from becoming a projectile."
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.
Source: WGMD, "NJ Drivers Ordered to Buckle up Pets Or Face Criminal Charges," Kelli Steele, June 5, 2012