These days it seems like there is always something new coming out, some new idea, some gadget. Technology changes fast, and it can be difficult to keep up with the latest thing. However, in order to be effective, our laws also have to keep up with these changes. This is particularly true with distracted driving, as was demonstrated by the recent case in San Diego, California.
In that case, the state tried to enforce a law intended to prevent people from watching television while driving (?) to punish a driver wearing the latest in tech, Google Glass. However, the law as written requires the state to prove that the technology was operating at the time. Because the state could not prove that with these glasses, the judge threw out the charge.
On the one hand, we do not want drivers to be distracted, as it leads to accidents. On the other hand, we do not want to charge someone with distracted driving when they were not, in fact, being distracted by whatever gadget is at their disposal in the vehicle. Thus the emphasis needs to be on the distraction, not the device itself.
New Jersey tends to be rather specific in its law. Section 39:4-97.3 of its motor vehicle code refers specifically to the use of "a wireless telephone or electronic communication device," as "texting while driving" is considered to be the most prevalent form of distracted driving and leading to the most accidents. Just look at the awareness spots on TV. However, many things (or behaviors) might distract a driver.
New Jersey is currently discussing a revision to its laws to broaden their scope, but many fear that its attempts to cover all forms of distracted driving makes it too vague with too much discretion given to the police. Its language bans "any activity unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle on a public road or highway." Yet there needs to be a balance in how the law deals with this problem.
How do we deal with this? How do we strike a balance between individual freedom to use this technology safely with a need to protect the public from distracted drivers? Leave your comments below and let me know what you think!