First cellphones, now man’s best friend– A ban on letting Fido ride on your lap is being considered in Rhode Island and Tennessee.

Rep. Peter G. Palumbo, a Democrat from Cranston, submitted the bill to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration after a constituent told him of her concerns after seeing a dog in the front seat of another driver’s car at a busy intersection and a 2010 survey by the AAA that found  an unrestrained dog in the driver’s lap is more of a distraction than people realize.

According to the survey, 21% of those polled admitted letting a dog sit in their laps while they drove; 7% said they’d given their dog food or water while driving, and 5% had played with the pup while the car moved, and 31% admitted to being distracted by their dog while driving, no matter where the dog was in their car during their travels.

If passed, violators would incur an $85 fine for first offenses, a $100 fine for second offenses and a $125 fine for subsequent offenses.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the  AAA’s online survey was based on answers from 1,000 dog owners who had driven with their dogs in the previous year. Beth Mosher, an AAA spokeswoman, said preventing a dog from running loose in a moving vehicle is safer for the dog in the event of a sudden stop or accident.

While several states have laws requiring that animals traveling in “open” areas of a vehicle, such as the back of a pickup truck be restrained; but according to Change.org, no states have laws banning animals from riding unrestrained inside a vehicle.

Rhode Island may be the first state to propose legislation, but the AAA’s findings and a case of a woman in South Dakota, in 2009, who was riding in her car with 15 loose cats, when her car was pulled over, may cause other states to take Rhode Island’s lead.

Patricia Edwards, the driver, was charged with being a significant threat to the public.  Some of the cats were riding in Edward’s back window, causing impaired vision.

Edwards fought the ticket.

The case made it all the way to the South Dakota Supreme Court concluded that the animals did pose a risk to public safety.

As Chief Justice David Gilbertson wrote at the time: “Because of the cats in the back window, Edwards failed to see the patrol car behind her and nearly backed into it,” Imagine if there had been a child on a bicycle instead of a patrol car there, he said.

Driving with a dog in your lap may also soon be illegal in Tennessee. In 2008,  California lawmakers actually passed such a bill into law, but then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it.

A poll  by the Providence Journal suggests that Rhode Islanders overwhelmingly support the ban. Of 380 people responding to the online poll, 74.5% favored such a law; 25.5% opposed it.

Truckers, you see a lot on the road.  Have you ever seen a vehicle loaded down with pets?  How do you feel about the ban?