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Get Ready for Summer and In-Car DVD

14 Mar, 2004 By: Kurt Indvik

Recently a neighbor of mine brought home a new Hummer he'd been promising us he was going to get. One of the things about the vehicle he was most proud of was the dual-screen DVD system he'd had installed in the back of the front-seat head rests so his kids could watch DVDs. The $1,000-plus system included separate players so that each kid could watch his or her own DVD, along with wireless headphones.

With summer approaching, the idea of the long car trip with the kids will no doubt continue to spur sales of video installations in new and existing family vehicles. The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that sales of DVD systems in cars this year will reach $500 million — almost double the total of $273 million logged in 2001. The organization does not distinguish between entertainment systems and DVD navigation systems, but industry observers figure the majority of those sales now are in entertainment.

While the opportunity for the home video business is obvious (more people renting and buying DVDs for the summer), a cover story by Video Store Magazine's Holly J. Wagner in this week's issue takes a look at some of the ramifications of a growing trend in in-car DVD systems, and it's not all pretty. Of the 30 percent of all auto accidents attributed to “distracted driving,” no one is able to isolate how many of those may be attributable to the driver watching a video out of the corner of his or her eye, but the natural inference is it's going to be an increasing problem. Though most systems disable any dashboard screen when a car is moving, that technology can be circumvented, though that's illegal in most states.

Wagner's article cites just a couple of examples where video viewing was, indeed, the cause of a serious accident. And with a growing number of two, three or more screen systems (the story mentions one guy with 11), the possibility of a “television in view of driver” infraction is likely gaining on police log books across the country, if nothing else.

And then, of course, there are those real smart guys who just can't wait for the privacy of their own homes to watch their pornography and have, therefore, at times inadvertently exposed fellow motorists to porn while sitting in traffic.

I have no doubt that DVD systems in most family vehicles will become commonplace in the next few years. Meanwhile, society will sort through the more damaging abuses of these systems.

And while a whole generation of parents will rejoice in the calm and quiet in the back seat during those long road trips, I wonder just how much of a loss is it for those kids who won't have those long-lasting memories of interminable jousting with their siblings in the back seat, playing 21 questions again and again, or hearing that time-honored line from every Dad at the wheel (and one I used myself a few times): “Am I going to have to pull over and stop the car?!”

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