Years ago, while driving around Anchorage, I glanced to my right and saw a couple guys driving around with a portable DVD player sitting on the dashboard of their car, quite happily watching a movie as they motored around town. Very unamused by their obvious disregard to the safety of themselves and those around them, I made sure to move a lane over so that I wasn’t next to them, and then spent the next few minutes ranting to whoever I was in the passenger seat about the idiodicy of trying to drive and watch a DVD at the same time.
Well, with the boom in fancy car toys over the last few years, including things like in-car DVD players, the inevitable has finally happened: two people in Alaska were killed by a driver watching a movie on a dash-mounted DVD player.
In what may be the first trial of its kind in the nation, prosecutors have accused the pickup truck’s driver of second-degree murder for watching a movie instead of the road when he crashed head-on into the Jeep.
The pickup’s driver, Erwin J. Petterson Jr., denies using the DVD player as he drove north on October 12, 2002 and contends he was only listening to music from a compact disc, said his attorney, Chuck Robinson.
After the crash, Petterson and his passenger, roommate Jonathan Douglas, were transported to an Anchorage hospital. Within hours, Douglas called his ex-wife and told her he was not sure how the collision occurred because he was “spacing out on a movie they were watching,” according to prosecutors. The woman is scheduled to testify.
David Weiser, 34, the son of the slain couple, said only two people know what happened in the cab of the truck. But equipping a truck with entertainment options that can be used while driving goes beyond a momentary distraction of putting on makeup or using a cell phone, he said.
“This takes forethought, this takes methodical steps,” David Weiser said. “You have to go to the store, plop over money, install it, and install it so it can be used without a brake employed.
“I view it as no different than walking into a bar, having five beers within an hour and getting behind the wheel,” said Weiser, who quit an eight-year career as a loan originator in Boston to attend the trial.
It’s very simple, people. If you’re driving a car, then drive the damn car. Don’t jabber on a phone (I don’t care how many times you tell me it doesn’t affect your driving — studies show that cell phone usage while driving is at least as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol, and if I know that you’re calling me from a cell phone while on the road, I will hang up on you), don’t watch a damn movie, and for God’s sake, pay attention to driving!
iTunes: “Entrada and Shootout” by Goldenthal, Elliot from the album Heat (1995, 1:45).