Pet peeves; we all have them. Most of us have several and the cranky ones have many. I can be a cranky one. Many times I find myself gripping the steering wheel, gnashing my teeth and wishing I could put on my old uniform, grab a ticket book and start handing out citations.

The peeve du jour just so happens to involve pets, so calling it a pet peeve is apropos! When I see it, I think, “Who told these people this was a good idea? Do we now have Hollywood lawmakers? Does everyone have to do what Paris Hilton and Britney Spears do? Why aren’t the cops writing tickets? There are laws on the books covering this.

Today’s pet peeve is the lap dog. They are not limited to the dyed pink poodle that graces the famous hotel heiress’ bony bend or the white powder puff we sometimes wish had covered Ms. Spears’ overexposed bits at other times. To paraphrase an old Oscar Mayer jingle, “There’s big dogs, little dogs, dogs that climb on rocks. Tough dogs, sissy dogs, even dogs with big old spots!”

Please don’t get me wrong, I love animals.  As a kid, I wanted to be a vet.  That is until I was told I would have to put them to sleep and school would take longer than medical school.  It’s just when I talk about dogs, I want ones who I can play with and wrestle. Ones that I will trip over rather than squish by stepping on; ones that bark, not yap; and when someone breaks into my home, ones that saves me ammo instead of giving me a puddle to clean up.  The little ones are ugly cats.  I don’t dislike them; I just don’t call them dogs.  I’ll pet them, play with them, and hold them, but they had better be alert and fast on their feet because I’m not breaking my neck if they get underfoot.

I saw a man driving with a full grown golden retriever cuddled up in his lap, head resting on the window frame, as if they were already enjoying their day at the park. Another fellow, apparently with a personality quandary, was driving his big rough Ford F-250 Diesel with the big rig smoke stacks belching exhaust.  His oversized wheels and tires would have had a rookie cop pulling out a tape and the Inspection Manual. He had enough roll bar protection that I didn’t know if I should laugh at the overkill or worry about his driving skills. You’ve all seen this truck. The truck screams “I’m a man.”

Added to all this testosterone was a tiny dog.  Perhaps the trucker’s intent was to show a softer side to attract a mate.  Fortunately, my encounter occurred in a Pennsylvania school zone where the speed limit was 15 mph. Though he appeared to be exceeding the limit, it was not by much, as he was approaching slower traffic traveling in the opposite direction. When we were approximately 25 feet apart, his curly haired chick magnet decided he had enough of this monster truck gig.  The little dog made a break for it, out the open window and into my lane of traffic. The trucker panicked and veered to his left, right into my lane.

The dog panicked and ran for the side of the road, right where I was going.   Fortunately we were in the school zone and I was able to stop in time.

I came stopped at the edge of the ditch.   The trucker driver stopped inches away.  I jumped out and grabbed the dog.  The trucker checked his tires to see if they were scuffed.  Then he started yelling at the dog. I stood there examining the dog, checking each scrape of road rash from his fall out of the truck, watching him shake and quiver.

I put on my Marine Corps Drill Instructor voice and said my piece.  Then I got a quite pleasant surprise.  Traffic was backing up where our vehicles remained blocking the roadway.  Some of the drivers were standing around watching the show.  They all backed me up.  I gave the trucker the option of securing the frightened dog in the back seat of his truck or waiting for the State Police to arrive to issue the proper citations.  Then the dog would be transported to the local SPCA. He secured “Peaches” in a carrier and a seat belt in the back seat.  The trucker left the scene, perhaps a little more knowledgeable in the law.

I was talking with a colleague about this hazard. He too finds it a frustrating habit.  He’s waiting for the day when he arrives at the scene of an accident and finds a driver frantically looking for Fifi.  Then, he will reach down and peels the flattened remains from his or her chest.

The problem here is that small dogs have small bones and small, slender ribs. Thirteen pairs of ribs meaning 26 slender, spike-like projectiles propelled by the force of the impact of the vehicle as well as the force of the airbag.  With 26 simultaneous hits to the chest, some are certain to weave their way between the ribs of the driver.  They can pierce lungs, hearts, diaphragms and other necessary and vital internal organs.  First responders will have to deal with it all. All because Paris Hilton decided “That’s hot!” Everyone just has to be hot no matter how stupid it is.

Do you know how many of our brothers and sisters lack the necessary creativity to rid our streets of these hazards? Who lack the initiative to look to the law to find something that fits? The answer is surprisingly many! Like those Hollywood fans who copy the asinine acts of the brainless divas, many officers await legislative action and a specific statute that spells out in detail the violation they seek to cite. There is even a forum thread on asking about this topic and many responses that there is no law!

I was a municipal officer trained at the PA State Police Southeast Training Center by troopers who had endured the ‘70’s when you had to be creative to deal with hippies. Then the 80’s came along and the creativity had to be toned down to simple common sense. If you are carrying a living thing in your lap that is moving around, if you need an arm to hold in place, what are you doing? You are interfering with the mechanics of driving! It would be the same as holding a child there. Nowadays, we see more dogs on driver’s laps than in passenger seats.

PA has a section of the Vehicle Code Obstruction to driving view or mechanism which states No person shall drive a vehicle when it is so loaded . . . as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or as to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle. . . Guess what the dog does? PA also has the famous catch-all, Careless Driving, if you can’t think of any other section because doing something dumb while driving puts everyone on the road at risk!

I live in Delaware now.  Delaware has Obstruction to driver’s view of driving mechanism which also provides (n)o person shall drive a vehicle when it is so loaded . . .  as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicles or as to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle. And in a pinch, Careless or inattentive driving which states (w)hoever operates a vehicle in a careless or imprudent manner . . .  and who fails to give full time and attention to the operation of the vehicle . . . shall be guilty of inattentive driving.

As an MP in Virginia, I could have used Driving with driver’s view obstructed or control impaired. A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives a vehicle when it is so loaded . . so as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.

I Googled the phrase “obstruction to driving view or mechanism” and got over 2.8 million hits. Every state has a statute as does Canada and even Russia. And after going through about 20 pages, I noticed I hadn’t seen California.

I did a specific search. Obstruction to Driving, California Vehicle Code No person shall drive a vehicle when it is so loaded . . . as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or as to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle. And it has been on the books since 1965. So will the next California Officer who sees Ms. Hilton or any other Princess of the silver screen setting a clearly hazardous precedent for our easily molded populace, please, for the safety of all Americans and the sanity of those of us who can no longer reel them in, write the ticket!

Robert was raised by a 28 year police veteran in Marple Township PA where his parents taught him love and respect for the law and others.  Robert served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the early 1980s as a Military Police Officer.  After his discharge, he pursued a career as a municipal Police Officer in suburban Philadelphia in Radnor Township.  He was involved in an on-duty vehicle accident which caused him to leave law enforcement after 7 years on the force.  Robert enrolled in college earning his Associates Degree, Summa Cum Laude, in Paralegal Studies with a minor in Administration of Justice from the Delaware County Community College, a Bachelor’s Degree, Cum Laude, and a Certificate in Paralegal Studies from Widener University in Chester PA and his Juris Doctor from the Widener University School of Law.  During Law School, Robert served a clinical internship with the Delaware County (PA) District Attorney’s Office. He currently volunteers his assistance with photography services to the Delaware County Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Foundation and the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation.  Robert is currently not licensed to practice law and does not intend any information presented to constitute legal advice.