Bay of Plenty's top traffic officer says motorists seen travelling with dogs on their laps are putting their own and others lives at risk with an act "close to dangerous driving".
A Bay of Plenty Times survey, conducted at the intersection of Cameron Rd and 9th Avenue, found an alarming number of people doing distracting things while driving.
Two people were seen driving with dogs on their laps and a further four motorists had dogs running loose in their vehicles.
Bay of Plenty District road policing manager Inspector Kevin Taylor said these drivers illustrated a complete disregard for the safety and welfare of people they shared the road with.
"Having a dog on your lap is another form of distraction. Depending on the circumstances, it would come close to dangerous driving ... it's just plain dumb.
"If you have a dog on your lap and you're in a crash, with or without airbags, at a reasonable speed you and your dog will become one," Mr Taylor said.
He said it was common sense dogs should be kept in the back of a car for safety and there were restraints people could buy to make sure the animals did not wander around.
"If you have a crash, anything loose in a vehicle that's not restrained keeps moving at the same speed you were going when you crashed. If you love your dog, strap it in," Mr Taylor urged.
During the one-hour survey, 17 people were spotted using a cellphone, three were texting and 14 were on a call.
Twenty-three drivers were eating, drinking or smoking at the wheel including one with a pizza box on his lap and a slice in his hand.
While there were specific offences by law for texting and talking on a cellphone while driving, Mr Taylor said eating and driving was the same as shaving, putting make-up on and reading a map or GPS.
"It's not illegal, however, in some circumstances it could cross the line to become careless driving if they aren't the actions of a normal, prudent motorist.
"If you take your eyes off the road to change a CD, look up and hit a power pole, or the car in front of you, that's careless driving," he said.
"It's the sort of stuff you get away with but sometimes circumstances conspire and you don't get away with it."
Rebecca Timms, a veterinary nurse at Tauranga Vets, said there were a number of ways to restrain a dog, including a harness which clips into a seat belt or a crate.
"If you use a restraint and you're in an accident of any form the animal can't move very far, they can't fling forward or cause injury to themselves or others in the car. It's very dangerous to drive with dogs on your lap, dangerous to them, to the dog and to others if it causes an accident," Ms Timms said.
Holistic Vets' Liza Schneider said people needed to be responsible with their pets and driving with an animal on your knee was unsafe.
As well as being dangerous in the event of an accident, Dr Schneider said the animals could also easily get into the drivers' footwell, by the pedals, and cause an accident.
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