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Drivers unaware they can be fined for having pets on their laps

Thursday, 10th Jan 2019

RAA is warning motorists that driving with a pet on their lap is not only illegal, but poses a serious road safety risk.

South Australia Police figures obtained by RAA show that during the past three years, 411 South Australians were caught driving with a pet on their lap, which carries a $244 penalty.

RAA Motoring Road Rules Consultant Graeme O’Dea is reminding drivers to ensure the safety of themselves, their pets and other road users as thousands of people take to the roads for their summer holidays.

“Many people don’t realise they’re not allowed to drive with their beloved pet dog or cat sitting on their lap,” Mr O’Dea said.

“There’s no official requirement to restrain your pets in a motor vehicle, however there is a rule which says you can’t drive if a person or animal is on your lap. If you get caught, you can expect a fine of $184, plus the $60 Victims of Crime Levy.”

Mr O’Dea said that while it is legal for passengers to carry a pet on their lap, it is advisable to secure the animal in the vehicle before going on any journey.

“It’s very easy to be distracted or knocked by an unrestrained dog or cat while you’re driving, which could result in a serious accident for you and your loved ones,” he said.

“And if you do crash, or even brake suddenly at any stage, your unrestrained pet could be thrown around the vehicle and be seriously injured or killed.

“Similarly, your unrestrained pet could become a dangerous projectile within the vehicle and put the safety and lives of everyone else in the car at risk.”

RAA suggests three safe ways to restrain an animal in a motor vehicle:

  • Use a purpose-built safety harness for your pet in conjunction with the seatbelt already in the vehicle;
  • For smaller dogs and cats, use a pet crate which can then be secured in the vehicle; and
  • In station wagons and four-wheel drives, pets can be carried in the rear of the vehicle and protected by a cargo barrier, but restraining them for their own safety is still recommended.
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