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Published: May 07, 2012

Authorities are cracking down on distracted drivers as distractions while on the road become increasingly numerous and varied. From cell phones to iPods to GPS screens, there are more distracting objects in cars today than ever - but dog lovers might not realize that their canine companion may be just as much of a distraction as sending a text message while behind the wheel.

In Rhode Island, legislator Peter Palumbo is trying to crack down on drivers who allow dogs to sit on their lap while on the road, The Wall Street Journal reports. If Palumbo's bill passes, the maximum fine for the distracted dog driver would be $125.

By keeping your dog in the backseat, you are not only protecting other people on the road - you are choosing the safest option for the dog, too. Palumbo says dogs can block a driver's view, get excited and jump around. Plus, if an accident were to occur, the dog would have no protection and may be severely injured upon impact.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, if you are traveling with your dog, you should never allow it to run and jump around, particularly near the driver. Dogs should be in a crate or restrained by a properly fitted safety harness specially designed for car travel in the back seat or back of the car.  Always make sure your dog has plenty of cool air and is never left unattended in a car.