Pay attention to the road, you idiots

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. Well, the inevitable has finally happened: two people in Alaska were killed by a driver watching a movie on a dash-mounted DVD player.

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!

(via /.)

iTunes: “Entrada and Shootout” by Goldenthal, Elliot from the album Heat (1995, 1:45).

Author: djwudi

Enthusiastic ambivert. Geeky, liberal, friendly, curious, feminist ally; trying to be a good person. (he/him)

0 thoughts on “Pay attention to the road, you idiots”

  1. Dammit, I had a big long comment up here, and I was getting timeouts trying to contact Typepad… grrr… And then our power went out and I lost it. So the gist of it is thus:

    1) Just because this guy had it set up to pop out when he turned on the ignition, doesn’t mean that it automatically played a movie every time he drove anywhere (or that he was watching it the night of the accident). Chances are MUCH better that he just thought it was cool to have the dvd player pop out when he turned on the car.

    2) It IS possible to pay attention to the road while talking on a cell phone, the same way it IS possible to pay attention to the road while having a conversation with someone in the passenger seat. If you’ve got a hands-free for your cell phone, I don’t see how it is really any different at all.

  2. 1) True enough, and this is what trials are for — to (try to) get the facts. However, given that his passenger said in the phone call that the movie was in progress while the car was in motion, if the screen is mounted such that the driver can see it, I find it very hard to believe that that wouldn’t be a distraction at all, even if the driver thought he was paying enough attention to the road.

    2) I’d say there’s at least one potential major difference: a passenger, able to see the conditions of the road, weather and traffic, will know when to shut up and let the driver concentrate on driving the car effectively and safely. Someone on the other end of a phone conversation won’t be able to make those judgments and is more likely to keep talking during times when it might be better not to distract the driver.

    The articles about the tests studying reaction time and cell phone usage that I linked to in my post seem to support my feelings, too.

    Tests by scientists at the Transport Research Laboratory said drivers on mobiles had slower reaction times and stopping times than those under the influence of alcohol.

    And it said hands-free kits were almost as dangerous as hand-held phones.


    The research said reaction times were, on average, 30% slower when talking on a mobile than when just over the legal limit, and nearly 50% slower than when driving normally.

    Drivers were also less able to maintain a constant speed and found it more difficult to keep a safe distance from the car in front.

    The New England Journal of Medicine published a report in 1997 by Dr. Don Redelmeier of the University of Toronto. The study found that talking on a cellphone while driving quadrupled a person’s risk of an accident.

    Redelmeier recently repeated his call to ban cellphone use by drivers, saying he actually underestimated the risks four years ago.


    Two other Canadian studies have raised questions about the safety of cell phones in the car.

    One by the University of Montreal included 36,000 people. The study found if you’re using a cell phone while driving, you are 38 per cent more likely to get into an accident than if you’re not using your cell phone.


    Another study, by the Insurance Bureau of British Columbia, came to similar conclusions.

    Forty-one drivers were a given a course to drive and at the same time, researchers asked them questions through a speaker installed in the car.

    Drivers did well on simple tasks like stopping for a red light, but when it came to a more complicated task such as making a left turn, drivers were twice as likely to make a potentially dangerous turn.

    Researchers say drivers using cellphones have a tougher time navigating complex manoeuvres.

    “Time sharing and multi-tasking does not come easily to the human brain,” says Dr. John Vavrick, the researcher in charge of the study.

    Even if you don’t agree with the numbers — and the articles do include competing statistics from other studies (funded by cell phone companies) — all of the people involved in the studies have agreed on one thing:

    In the case of cellphones and driving, what all the parties do agree on is one thing: driving and dialing don’t mix and it is up to drivers to stop doing it.

    “It’s as simple as that: don’t talk and drive,” says the CAA’s Lyne Fortin.

    As I’ve said before: hang up and drive.

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  4. Matter of Life or Death!!!
    Why do people still use their cellphones while driving knowing it is illegal? Why do people keep breaking the rules of the road?! My life changed forever because of ONE ACCIDENT! One accident due to my father and the other users of the road not paying attention to their surroundings, caused my father’s DEATH!!!Whether you’re on a motorcycle or driving any other type of vehicle, look twice before switching lanes, making turns, or pulling out of your driveway, stay in your lane, and keep your eyes on the road and off your cellphones, it could be a matter of life or death.

    On October 26, 2007, in my one of my best friend’s car, on our way back from Walmart. I looked out the window and up to the sky. It was so gorgeous out, the moon was full and shined beautifully amongst the glistening stars. Looking up into the impressive night night sky, there were three stars that were were formed into a half circle underneath the moon. While looking at that part of the glittering night sky, I thought to myself, “ There is my Grandma, Uncle Bob, and my Dad. I instantly rethought what is was thinking and restated to myself, “ Wait but my father isn’t dead!”…

    School was finally over, for the week. Not only was I excited about it being a beautiful Friday, but I was going to my friends Veronica & Becca’s after school, and had a whole father daughter weekend planned with my dad while my Mom was going to the beach with some of her friends. The first of our many exciting plans, was to go to the Camas High School football game after picking me up from Veronica & Becca’s house around 5:30pm. That day was going to be PERFECT! Or so I thought.

    Before I got out of school and after my dad got off work, he rode his motorcycle over to Portland, Oregon to have his bike worked on. He was so happy! I swear he loved his motorcycle and his 41 Ford more than anything! They were his 3rd and 4th children.

    After the bike was done, my dad left on his way to pick me up from my friends house. While on his way to pick me up, he wasn’t paying enough attention to the road, and didn’t notice there was a small wreck up ahead and the cars were stopped and the cars that were stopped didn’t notice him either. Once he realized the cars were no longer in motion, in an attempt to save himself from injury or possible death, he swerved around the car in front of him. Something went wrong and he was ejected from his bike and went into a coma on impact. The paramedics came as soon as possible and did everything they could to save my father, but nothing worked. He was GONE!!!

    Nothing that day went as planned or should I say hoped. My father never did pick me up and my mother had to tell me at 9:30 that night that my father had passed away. That was supposed to be a fun and enjoyable day and turned out to be anything but. If my father would have been paying better attention to the road, he might have still been on this earth today. That’s why I am so passionate about the rules of the road or traffic safety because just by doing little things like looking twice before switching lanes, making turns, or pulling out of your driveway, staying in your lane, and keeping your eyes on the road and off your cellphones, you can not only help prevent accidents from happening in the first place, but in a way saving the lives of someone else or quite possibly your self.

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