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My other car is a movie theater

Who needs airbags? Drivers skirt the law as highways fill with mobile screening rooms

With in-car video systems as common as cup holders, automotive interiors have become a bauble battleground.

“To stand out now, you have to have a certain type of flavor, an elaborate installation that sets you apart from the crowd,” says Gary Fisher, who owns Canoga Park’s Safe & Sound Design with Jeremy Wolfe.

Still, standing apart shouldn’t mean standing on trial. Safe & Sound turns down many requests that, while inventive, are illegal. Here’s how to keep your blingmobile on the right side of Johnny Law.

AIRBAG REMOVAL: NO. Clients often ask if their autos’ airbags might be replaced with something more useful — say, a flush-mounted screen or a safe. “People at the car companies were getting upset,” Wolfe says. “We do have some legal guidelines.”

PORN: YES. Everyone has a story about automotive exhibitionists — people in the next car who find it soothing to screen “Raw Desire” while stuck on the 405. However, while it might seem illegal, there’s no legislation in California prohibiting specific viewing content in cars.

WATCHING WHILE DRIVING: NOT REALLY. Drivers aren’t supposed to see any video display except GPS. However, Safe & Sound will install front-seat screens — but they all come with a switch that the driver must activate in order to watch it while the car is moving. Wolfe says these clients also must sign a waiver absolving Safe & Sound from all liability. (The California Highway Patrol issued 900 LCD-screen citations last year.) The company draws the line at screens large enough to block the rearview mirror — unless the client also installs a rear-view camera.

TROPICAL FISH: PLEASE DON’T. One client asked Fisher to install an LCD screen fronted by a custom fish tank in his 2005 Corvette, giving the appearance that the screen was inside the tank. “We never suggested that he should put fish in there,” says Wolfe, who also installed a plug underneath the car for easy draining.

However, some of the most outrageous aftermarket installations have no safety factor because they’re meant to be used when no one’s at the wheel. Dentist-to-the-stars Dr. Kevin Sands owns a Supercharged Range Rover featuring a two-screen system paired with Bose audio. The first place he watched four-wheeled features was right at home.

“Last night, my girlfriend and I just sat in the driveway and watched ‘Million Dollar Baby,'” Sands says. “It was awesome. Like sitting in first class, but with no jet lag.”

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