LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Photographs showing pop star Britney Spears driving a car with her infant son in her lap, in apparent violation of motor safety laws, caught the attention of child welfare authorities and ignited a media uproar on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said a deputy paid a visit to Spears' home in Malibu to obtain "contact information" at the request of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
"We were contacted by DCFS to obtain contact information from the Spears for them," said the spokesman, Luis Castro. "What they're going to do with the information we don't know. It's not our investigation."
A spokeswoman for the Family Services Department, Louise Grasmehr, declined comment on the Spears incident. But she said her agency routinely sends social workers to any homes where a child has been reported to be placed in danger, including the failure to properly restrain a baby in a moving car.
Meanwhile, Spears, 24, issued a statement insisting that she is a good mother and that incident in question was the result of a "frightful encounter with the paparazzi."
Pictures published in the New York Post and elsewhere on Tuesday showed Spears at the wheel of her sport utility vehicle, holding her 5-month-old baby, Sean, on her lap. A man identified as her bodyguard is shown next to her in the front passenger seat.
According to the Post, Spears drove for at least two miles along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu on Monday.
A source close to Spears told Reuters that the incident occurred after the singer had driven to a Starbucks shop with her son strapped into his car seat in the back of her SUV.
She moved the baby to her lap after stopping at the coffee shop to let her bodyguard go inside, then became unnerved as photographers swarmed around the vehicle as she waited for him to return, the source said. When the bodyguard got back in the car, Spears quickly drove off with her son still in her lap.
"I had a horrifying, frightful encounter with the paparazzi while I was with my baby," Spears said in a statement issued through her publicist. She said Monday's episode reminded her of an incident last summer in which she was "trapped" in her car by a throng of photographers.
"I instinctively took measures to get my baby and me out of harm's way, but the paparazzi continued to stalk us, and took photos of us which were sold to the media," she said. "I love my child and would do anything to protect him."
Under California law, automobile passengers are required to be secured in a child-safety seat or booster seat until they are at least 6 years old or weigh at least 60 pounds.
The photos of Spears and her baby drew widespread media attention, even becoming a subject of discussion on the popular morning television show "Live with Regis and Kelly."
Spears, who has kept a relatively low profile since marrying dancer Kevin Federline in September 2004, is planning to return to the spotlight this spring with a guest appearance on the NBC television sitcom "Will & Grace."