Ethics of In-Car DVD Players

This one is more subtle than it at first appears to be.
CTV News has a story today about how in-car DVD players can be dangerous distractions when they’re mounted where the driver can see them. Yes, dangerous. “Experts” even say so.

Here’s a story about an Alaska man who was charged with murder after his in-car movie watching caused a fatal crash. (According to CTV he was recently acquitted.)

My first thought, and probably yours: “What kind of IDIOT…?” Of course driving while watching a movie is dangerous. Seriously and obviously dangerous.
No doubt that’s why manufacturers of these devices have built in safe-guards. According to CTV,
“If installed as recommended, DVD players will not work in an automobile unless the emergency brake is on or the vehicle is in park. But owners can defeat the safety measures by installing the devices themselves.”

And I imagine there are more than a few auto accessory shops that would be willling to bypass those safety measures for you, if you’re not the do-it-yourself brand of idiot.

So why not just ban such devices altogether? Well, turns out that at least some of them are multi-featured, including navigation systems with maps, etc. So these devices do seem to have a legitimate place on the dashboard of a parked vehicle.

Here are some provocative questions, sans satisfying answers:

  • Are aftermarket installers of DVD players responsible for the poor choices of their customers (i.e., in bypassing manufacturers’ safety features)?
  • Should manufacturers be selling these directly to the public, if safety features are so easy to bypass?
  • Is there anything special about in-car DVD players, such that they should be regarded as a special risk and singled out for regulation, in comparison to dozens of other nameable in-car distractions?

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