Everything in the state of Florida is backwards and this news story is one more example of that universal truth.
There's a bill in the Florida Senate that would make it illegal to pet your dog while driving.
Pet. Your Dog. While Driving.
The new bill, introduced by state Rep. Jackie "Cats Are better" Toledo (R-Tampa) and Sen. Wilton "I Hate Joy" Simpson (R-Trilby), is part of a larger effort to crack down on distracted driving. They also want to ban reading, writing and applying makeup while behind the wheel. And that's all well and good - most reasonable people would probably agree a safe driver can't be a safe driver if they're halfway through a paperback edition of 50 Shades of Grey while laying on a second coat of concealer and eyeliner. If you're working on your screenplay while you weave in and out of traffic, you're probably doing something wrong.
But... but... but... no petting dogs? Is this a problem in Florida? Has there been a recent slew of dog-petting related vehicular homicides? What's the logic behind this and why did they single out dogs? Are the owners of cats, hamsters and ferrets statistically found to be safer drivers?
Believe it or not, the good folks at The American Automobile Association (AAA) have actually done to some research on this subject. Yes, AAA still exists (I was surprised to learn that too). AAA found 52% of drivers (who responded to the survey) claimed they pet their dog while driving and 29% admitted their pets distract them. While they didn't actually find any incidents of dog-influenced car accidents, I'm sure the person who did this research owns a feline.
Even still, what does a ban on petting your dog while driving even mean? You can't have a dog in the seat next to you? And if you do, you can't touch the dog? What if the dog touches you? Can the dog pet it's owner while driving? If your dog is smart enough to drive a car, it's also smart enough to pet its owner. That's just basic science.
As ridiculous as this law may sound, local news outlets in Florida still went out and interviewed concerned dog-owning motorists to get their opinions.
After CBS47 & Fox30 decided to run a story on the subject, dog owner Jim Benton said, “That’s a tough one because it’s almost like texting and driving.”
Look, Jim, I'm sure you're a nice guy, but if you think touching a dog is "like texting and driving," I can only presume you're about as dumb as Jussie Smollett writing a check to someone he just hired to commit a felony. Texting and driving is nothing like petting a dog. Texting and driving involves use of your eyes, not to mention the cognitive resources you'd have to devote towards reacting to the hypothetical text you just read and thinking of a response. Petting a dog, on the other hand, just involves petting a dog. You don't really have to think about the fact that you're scratching your dog behind the ear while you sit in traffic. Much like holding someone's hand, petting man's best friend is practically an involuntary response.
And how would you even enforce this law? Will someone drive around looking in passenger seats to see if a chihuahua is curled up next to it's owner?
Florida was one of the last state's in the union to legally require drivers to own car insurance, yet somehow they've gone from that to this. Look, we don't need a government solution to every "problem" (assuming this is even a problem). Petting dogs isn't an issue. This isn't like someone getting drunk and drag-racing teenage drivers while they cruise the strip (do people still do that?). It's just petting a dog. Get over it.
My conclusion if this law passes: Florida hates dogs and happiness. Prove me wrong, Florida. Prove me wrong.
Photo of the incredible flying dog by Getty Images