What is the law in Illinois for distracted driving because of a pet riding in the car with you?
Ha, fooled you. There is none.
There is no particular Illinois state law dealing with how or in what manner a pet may occupy your vehicle while you are motoring on the motorway.
In years past, a bill had been submitted in the General Assembly regarding banning pets on your lap while driving, but it did not pass.
All New England states and Minnesota provide requirements of some sort for restraining or locating pets in the vehicle. Hawaii forbids having Fido or Fluffy ride on your lap. Ohio likewise has a traffic violation for distracted driving because of a lap buddy.
Many states have no restraint on how pets are to be restrained in a car. In these states, Fido may ride in the bed of a pickup without cage or strap. Illinois likewise does not have a rule against the canine riding in the bed of the Ram.
The only pet/car rules are regarding the treatment of Fido's health. There is a specific law that you can't confine your pet in a car such that their life is threatened because of excessive heat or cold without proper ventilation or other protection from such heat or cold.
Penalties there are hefty fines and possible jail time. And a law enforcement officer can break into the car by "reasonable means" to make rescue if they have a reasonable suspicion an animal is in distress and the owner can't be immediately located.
But as far as distracted driving goes, it's the cellphones that have garnered center stage with specific traffic rules. Let's review, class.
Drivers under 19 with instruction permits or graduated licenses can't use cells at all while driving. Otherwise, except for emergency personnel, such devices (including laptops, iPads and the like) may not be used unless done hands-free or voice-operated. You may use your hands if calling in an emergency or if you are parked on the shoulder of a roadway.
Heck, if you are stopped in a traffic jam and you put the car in park or neutral, you may use your hands. GPS and navigation systems may have hand use as can any phone system electrically integrated into the car.
Penalties for such violations are fines starting at $75, and up to $150 for subsequent offenses. Violations in school or work zones or causing an injury while violating the nonhands rule can result in penalties of jail or prison.
So, under Illinois law, one solution to not violate the statute by trying to text with fingers while driving is to have Fido do the texting on your cell with his paws while he's sitting on your lap.
The jury in the personal-injury lawsuit over the 12-car pileup you caused may not be terribly sympathetic with that defense.
This would be true even if you broke down sobbing on the witness stand while testifying that your beloved Fido was blown out the back window when the air bag deployed.
Brett Kepley is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Inc. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.