Alaska seeks to pull the plug on in-car DVD players

| 4/25/2005

If you’re driving in Alaska, don’t touch that dial – tuning in to the television could have you facing a hefty fine.

A bill, HB 12, would make it illegal for the driver of a vehicle to watch television or a video monitor while the vehicle is moving. The law also prohibits the installation of video units within the driver’s view that do not block the signal when the vehicle is not in park.

According to the bill, the rules will not apply to vehicles’ built-in display, global positioning systems, mapping programs or side- and rear-view video cameras on larger vehicles.

Watching the video screen while driving could result in a misdemeanor charge and a fine of between $2,500 and $10,000, according to the bill. If a person watching the screen is involved in an accident and injures or kills another person, the charges will jump from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The measure stems from a trial that took place last year along the Seward Highway, in which a driver – whose vehicle contained a video system within his view – hit and killed two people. The driver, Erwin “Jamie” Petterson Jr., claimed he was listening to music and not watching the screen, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Petterson was acquitted of the charges after jurors said they didn’t believe he was watching a movie.