Rules of the Road: Is it legal for driver to have a small dog on lap?


Question: I see people driving while holding a small dog on their lap. It looks dangerous to me. Is it legal?

Answer: I would like to tell you that it is illegal, but I have not found any Washington law that will address the issue other than negligent driving, which might be a stretch to convict on.

It is quite dangerous to drive with a small animal on your lap. If you are involved in a crash that deploys the airbags, the airbag that is designed to save your life could force that small animal into your stomach and chest area, which could some serious internal injuries and broken bones for you and probably will, at least, seriously injure the animal. There are a number of pet restraints/booster seats that will help keep your pet safe in a crash. These would be a much better way to transport your pet.

Q: Now that it is legal for drivers to not stop for the red light while making a right turn off of State Street onto York Street, when can we expect the crosswalk signals to be changed? I am tired of the walk signal appearing and having to wait for three to seven drivers to blast through the light. Please stop giving pedestrians a walk signal while drivers are turning here.

A: It is not legal for a driver to fail to stop for a red signal when making a right turn or to fail to yield to a pedestrian following the pedestrian signals.

This falls under RCW 46.61.055 - Traffic control signal legend, section 3a. In terms of driving when pedestrians have the walk signal, that's under RCW 46.61.235(1).


Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices.

Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now serving on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to

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