October 27, 2004

Unexpected Problems: DVDs On The Road [2:00 pm]

Speech, safety, decency — who’d a thunk it? When the Car Beside You Is an XXX Theater [pdf]

On-board video has become widely popular with drivers, especially those with children. But while many motorists entertain back-seat passengers with DVD’s like “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” a surprising number choose racier fare.

Andre Gainey, for example, was playing a pornographic video on three screens in his Mercedes last February as he drove past a police station in Schenectady, N.Y. Mr. Gainey, 35, was arrested and later convicted of a misdemeanor charge of public display of sexual material and other violations. Last August he was sentenced to three weekends in jail.

Few cars are equipped with as many screens as Mr. Gainey’s. But complaints from people who have spotted explicit images on screens inside cars are growing nearly as fast as on-board DVD sales.

[...] Sightings of adult videos by passengers — including children — in other cars “is a vexing new phenomenon,” said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, a conservative advocacy group in Washington. Ms. LaRue, who wrote an essay titled “Four-Wheel Indecency” for the group’s Web site (cwfa.org), said new laws were necessary as monitors inside cars had gotten bigger (up to 17 inches, measured diagonally) and more visible from outside.

“It’s pretty incredible to have to write laws for people who lack the common sense and civility to think it’s O.K. to play such DVD’s in full view of other people, and especially children,” Ms. LaRue said.

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