On Tuesday night, a California Highway Patrol officer stopped a San Diego-area driver for speeding. But this wasn’t your typical traffic stop. The driver received what is believed to be the first ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving.
The driver, Cecilia Abadie, posted an update to her Google+ profile: "A cop just stopped me and gave me a ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving!…Is Google Glass illegal while driving or is this cop wrong??? Any legal advice is appreciated." (The woman’s Google+ profile photo, by the way, shows her wearing Google Glass, as does her background photo.)
To answer the driver’s question about the illegality of wearing Google Glass while driving, the CHP was quoted in The Los Angeles Times as saying the ticket "was issued as a violation of California Vehicle Code 27602…(which) makes it illegal to 'drive a motor vehicle if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, or any other 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.'"
It's a long-winded way of saying: "Don't drive and Glass." And I agree. No one should be allowed to wear Google Glass while operating a vehicle. You shouldn’t be allowed to FaceTime your significant other while eating oatmeal and driving, either. (I know someone who used to do this regularly. Big surprise: He had a car accident, though fortunately, it was minor.)
Texting and talking on the phone are hazardous enough. Do you really need to be told not to drive while wearing a device that projects information and visuals into your immediate field of vision?
Don’t misunderstand. I’m a big fan of wearable tech, including Fitbit fitness trackers and smartwatches. Though I have some trepidation about Google Glass, I must admit Google's video of what it's like to experience Glass looks amazing.
And I realize this is a complicated issue. The developers of some apps, such as the navigation app INRIX Traffic for Glass, are hoping that wearing Glass while driving won't be outlawed. Also, some believe that wearing Glass for navigation while driving could actually be safer than fiddling with your smartphone or GPS device for directions. With Glass, at least you keep both hands on the wheel, and your eyes can still be on the road. If you outlaw Glass, shouldn't you also outlaw smartphones?
It's not an easy question to answer. In the meantime, Abadie has her defenders. The Times reports that her post received more than 200 comments, many of which urged her to fight the ticket in court.
All that said, the fundamental problem here is that we’re already a nation of distracted drivers; Google Glass will be yet another potential distraction.
What to do about it? Make it illegal for drivers to use any digital device while driving? I doubt that will happen, especially since such laws are decided state by state.
At least for now, I think there needs to be a major public service campaign ready to roll when Google Glass finally debuts (we still don't know when that will be). In a statement, Google said that Google Glass is "meant to help the wearer be in contact with the world and not to make them be distracted from something important like driving," according to the LA Times.
That’s an OK start, but it's not enough. I hope Google and others developing similar eyewear will speak out in a forceful way about the potential dangers of driving while wearing these devices. Potential Google Glass wearers need to get the message, now, before the devices are commercially available. It’s a simple, direct, clear message, one that took the cell phone industry years to come up with: “It can wait.”