A woman appeared in San Diego traffic court last week charged with distracted driving for wearing Google Glass. This was considered to be a first for a violation of an existing California law by a driver using this product.
The judge threw out the charge, ruling that there wasn't enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Google Glass was turned on at the time. It is only illegal to wear the device while driving if it is operational.
The Law as Stated
This case was a test of the language of the California law that states,
"A person shall not drive a motor vehicle if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, or any other similar means of visually displaying a television broadcast or video signal that produces entertainment or business applications, is operating and is located in the motor vehicle at a point forward of the back of the driver’s seat, or is operating and the monitor, screen, or display is visible to the driver while driving the motor vehicle.”
Essentially, operating a video-display in front of the driver's head rest where it can distract the driver. According to a CNN story, the law was originally drafted to keep people from watching TV while driving. With Google Glass, a small monitor is placed in front of the right eye in such a way that the user must look up to view the content displayed on it.
The Problem with the Law
The problem with this ruling is that it does not indicate that wearing this product while driving is legal, only that the state did not meet its burden of proof under the law as it is written. The court only pointed out the weak point in the wording. California’s law failed because it required proof that the product was not just being worn, but was operating.
This is just another example of the need for our laws to keep up with technology. California was addressing televisions and screens located in the vehicle itself, not wearable tech. New Jersey is one of only four states (including Delaware, West Virginia, and Illinois) that is working to enact a law banning the use of Google Glass while driving.
So What Do We Do?
Proponents of Google’s wearable tech state that it provides the functions of other products, such as a GPS device. However, it can also do many other things that have nothing to do with the operation of the vehicle or getting it where you want it to go.
Considering that so many accidents are caused by distracted driving, is it so terrible to require that drivers do not wear these glasses? If that text, that e-mail, that phone call, or that Facebook update can wait until you get to your destination, can’t wearing the latest tech wait too?