Eyes on the road

Monday, March 22, 2004

Vehicles today come with more amenities than you could possibly imagine. But the addition of DVD players -- convenient for families traveling with children -- have the potential to cause considerable harm as well.

Many of the vehicles with DVD players are marketed to parents with young children. The idea is that the kids can watch a movie in the back seat while the family drives on a long trip. Everybody stays happy, right?

Not exactly. Some motorists are discovering that the DVD players are being used to show much more than G-rated cartoons. And now young children have inadvertently been exposed to pornography playing on a screen in a passing car.

And, depending on where they are driving or parked, motorists could face fines for showing X-rated films.

A New York driver was arrested last month for driving past police with a porn film playing on a screen in the passenger-side sun visor of his Mercedes-Benz. The driver was accused of breaking state laws prohibiting watching TV while driving and another that makes it illegal to exhibit sexually explicit material in a public place.

Southeast Missouri isn't immune from this practice either, though no arrests have been made to date. Drivers in Cape Girardeau already have spotted porn films playing on DVD players in passing cars.

Seventeen states have laws related to using cell phones while driving and some make it illegal to watch TV while driving. Missouri has neither. Laws governing the exhibition of pornography vary by state, but they could be applied to drivers as well.

Drivers have certain responsibilities when they take the wheel -- and safety is among the most crucial. Distractions of all sorts, from swerving to miss an object in the road to reaching across the seat to grab a ringing cell phone, can cause accidents with the least bit of warning. No one is sure that DVD players, with or without pornography showing on the screen, won't soon be added to the list.

Our parents and driving instructors taught us to keep our eyes on the road. It's still advice worth heeding.

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