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Old 06-21-2003, 03:42 PM   #1
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What are these car maufacturers thinking????

Surely they could have predicted this would happen.

Driven to distraction by in-car TV
Great for the back, lethal in the front

Legislation looms for video screens

News Item:

A driver in Alaska was charged with second-degree murder last month as a result of a fatal accident that occurred when he allegedly drove while watching a DVD movie on an in-dash screen.

News Item:

Last November in Ohio, where there is no state law prohibiting in-car TV screens, a driver ran a red light and struck another car, killing a one year-old passenger. The man was allegedly watching a movie on one of his vehicle's five screens, three of which were positioned in the front seat.

Although there was a DVD in the machine at the time of the crash, the accused did not admit to watching it. But he did plead guilty to vehicular manslaughter, punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail.

Minivans, trucks and even some sedans now come factory-equipped with backseat television screens, video or DVD players, and videogame hookups all marvellous innovations welcomed by travel-weary children and their harried parents.

With screens flipping down from the ceiling, or mounted in consoles, seat backs or headrests, these electronic babysitters keep back-seat passengers happy and, perhaps more importantly, quiet.

But when those screens make the leap to the front seat, they add a whole new dimension to driver distraction.

With the serious consequences of watching television while driving beginning to surface more frequently, legislators are scrambling to introduce new laws, or supplement existing ones, in order to keep up with advances in car-based video technology.

A discussion paper released by Transport Canada this week suggests the federal government may be preparing to regulate in-vehicle electronic navigation and entertainment devices (called "telemetrics"), including a requirement that these devices not operate when the vehicle is in gear.

In its report, the transportation agency suggests that current industry practices alone haven't been effective at limiting distractions to drivers.

There are already laws on the books to help limit distractions to drivers. Watching television while driving is not only dangerous, it's also illegal in many jurisdictions.

In Ontario, section 78 of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) says it's illegal to drive a motor vehicle on highway if it's equipped with a television receiving set, any part of which is located in front of the back of the driver's seat, or if it's visible to the driver while driving.

Recalling that he once charged a soccer fan for watching a World Cup match while driving down the 401, OPP Sgt. Cam Woolley says police have been laying that particular HTA charge for a few years. But with some in-dash LCD screens being equipped for viewing videos and DVDs only, and technically not capable of receiving television signals, the section has limited application.

However, Woolley notes the regulation is aimed at driver distraction, and there are other tools police can use.

"While some equipment may not fall within the strict definition of that particular section, we have also handled it with a careless driving charge," he says. "In the case of serious bodily harm or death, the criminal code would be utilized either dangerous driving or criminal negligence."

Vehicles such as the Lexus LX470 come with factory-installed, DVD-based GPS navigation systems in the dashboard, which are also capable of playing DVD movies. According to Antonia Poullis of Lexus Canada, the navigation system works in and out of "Park," but can only be programmed when the vehicle is not moving. As the vehicle begins to move, some of the functionality is disabled so the driver is concentrating on the road.

"The DVD movie option can only be viewed when in the Park mode with the parking brake engaged," says Poullis.

Questioned about the possibility of bypassing the safety measures, Poullis says screens accessible to the driver are illegal and it would require more extensive modifications to the vehicle's systems than just bypassing its parking brake, which could affect other systems.

"It is not a simple thing to do," she says, "and if there was ever any related warranty issues there would be a problem on who might be liable."

For vehicles that don't come from the factory already equipped with an entertainment system, there is a huge assortment of aftermarket systems available, ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to well into the thousands.

In fact, the Transport Canada discussion paper singles out aftermarket systems as one of the main areas of concern because they allow so many "feature-rich" components that aren't compatible with driving.

Portable VCR/TV units are fairly inexpensive (starting at about $400) and have the advantage of being movable from vehicle to vehicle. But if they're not secured properly, these consoles could shift or become airborne during a collision or sudden stop, which could cause serious injury.

Jurisdictions with more comprehensive legislation, such as Saskatchewan, include in their regulations the stipulation that all television sets or video screens must be securely and safely mounted in the vehicle.

Proper installation aside, driver distraction is the predominant problem. Manufacturer's installation instructions for aftermarket screens and entertainment units all caution drivers not to operate the equipment while driving and, to that end, come equipped with safeguards.

"Upfront video screens all come with a safety circuit that does not allow the monitor to be played while driving," says Terry Hartwich, owner of Base Electronics in Welland. The safety circuit is usually hooked to the parking brake circuit of the vehicle.

"That said," adds Hartwich, "everything can be bypassed."

And many owners do circumvent the safety feature. Technophiles claim to do so for esthetics, while other drivers simply want full-time access to the upfront screens.

Having paid an appreciable sum of money for their system, they want to utilize it to its fullest potential, and that includes front-seat viewing, whether by a passenger or driver.

Most drivers, despite the telltale blue glow coming from their dashboard screens, won't admit to watching while driving.

Permanently installed LCD screens range in size from mere centimetres to 17-inch widescreen overhead models. There are rear-view mirrors that act as colour TV screens, motorized retractable systems that pop out of the dashboard, and screens embedded in sun visors, headrests, glove compartments and even steering wheels.

An inquiry at a national electronics chain store about steering wheel-mounted television screens was dismissed with a brusque, "That's illegal."

However, several sites on the Internet feature photos of steering wheel-mounted TV screens installed in everything from an old Chevy Impala to a new Mercedes-Benz CL55.

In the U.S., all new passenger cars since 1998 are required to have driver and passenger air bags. But in Canada there is no federal legislation that requires cars to be equipped with air bags, which allows Canadian drivers to remove air bags and install TV screens.

There's no doubt television screens add to drivers' visual overload.

Many experts, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S., cite driver inattention as a contributing factor in a large percentage of motor vehicle crashes. One NHTSA report estimates that driver distraction from any number of sources is a contributing factor in as much 50 per cent of all accidents.

Increasingly, police are required to indicate on accident reports whether the presence of a cellphone or other electronic devices contributed to the collision.

Several jurisdictions have passed laws that deal with specific distractions. Newfoundland and New York ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving.

In Ontario, a similar private member's bill was recently approved in principle.

Other places, such as New Hampshire, have opted for more broadly worded legislation on negligent driving that encompasses a wider scope of distracting activities, from eating to watching movies.

Some laws even seek to restrict what car owners watch while cruising down the highway. Last March, the Tennessee state Senate unanimously passed a bill that, if approved by the House, will ban the use of obscene or patently offensive movies in vehicles if the images are visible to other drivers.

The legislation came about after a constituent's family, stopped at a traffic light, saw a pornographic movie being displayed on a television screen in the car next to them.

What car owners choose to watch while driving, and, by extension, what is in clear view of other motorists and pedestrians, is just one of many issues arising from the popularity of in-car entertainment systems.

The current disparity of laws dealing with all these issues, makes it difficult for car owners to know, as they drive through various municipalities, provinces and states, whether or not their equipment is illegal.

With the advent of in-motion satellite television beaming 300-plus channels to our cars, MP3 players, and the promise of even more technology to come, it is apparent drivers will face an ever-increasing list of distractions.

In turn, lawmakers will face even more challenges to create legislation that will help keep drivers' attention off their electronic toys and on the road.

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Old 06-21-2003, 04:30 PM   #2
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yup, when your driving, you get dumb. its just the way it is.

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Old 06-21-2003, 04:33 PM   #3
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Old 06-21-2003, 04:38 PM   #4
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tv or no tv there are gonna be distractions while driving. a cell phone, a screaming baby in the back, eating food, changing a radio station, looking at a girl in a short skirt walking by...

dont blame the manufacturers for this, blame the person that allowed himself to be distracted.
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Old 06-21-2003, 04:51 PM   #5
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or blame the nazi's. thats who im gonna blame.
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Old 06-21-2003, 05:06 PM   #6
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i prefer to blame the terrorists

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