Dear Dr. Gridlock:
You've received a lot of flak for condoning DVD players in cars, from critics who think the young passengers should be marveling at the scenery.
Clearly, these people have never had the pleasure of driving the infamously tedious and traffic-snarled I-95 corridor between Washington and New York with a cranky 2-year-old in the back seat, as we must do several times a year.
There are only so many ways you can keep a young child occupied and happy when they're immobilized in a car seat for six hours, and staring at mile after mile of Jersey walls is not one of them.
Our toddler rarely watches TV at home, but long trips make portable video devices a godsend.
I don't know how dangerous these devices are as distractions to other drivers, but I do know that they eliminate one major howling distraction in our back seat!
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
My husband and I are the parents of three young children, ages 8, 6 and 3. We regularly travel three hours or more in our car to visit family along the I-95/New Jersey Turnpike corridor.
Several weeks ago, we purchased a new 2005 Honda Odyssey minivan with a DVD system. However, it is only for long trips. We take breaks to listen to music, have quiet time and admire any scenery.
Last weekend, we traveled to Northern New Jersey. It was a fabulous trip despite traffic jams! The children fought with each other and complained about the trip less, which means less refereeing on our part and, as a result, fewer distractions from the road.
We see the DVD player as no different than the endless number of children's music CDs we've been playing for years.
I truly believe that if my parents could have had the opportunity to install a DVD player to help my brother and me pass the time on the long rides we took for family vacations, they would have jumped at the chance!
If these devices had been available while my girls were growing up, I would have been tempted to get one to break up those 18-hour trips to Florida. Other drivers should be understanding and look at something else.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails at firstname.lastname@example.org faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.