Is Using Google Glass While Driving As Dangerous As Using A Phone?

There is a lot of talk and excitement over the new Google Glass in the tech community. While the glasses is still in the works and not available to the general public, several prototype versions have been released for selected personnel in the industry. The Glass drew even more speculation and discussion when a woman was pulled over and ticketed for driving while wearing the specs.

Woman Pulled Over for Driving With Google Glass

Is Using Google Glass While Driving As Dangerous As Using A Phone

The Google Glass is a hands-free device, though it didn’t matter to the police officer who cited Cecilia Abadie for driving with the glasses on. Abadie is a California native and a staff member working for Google’s Explorer program. She was testing the device right before its official launch and was ticketed for going 80 in a 65 mph zone off the Interstate 15 in San Diego. The officer also cited her for wearing a device that could compromise her vision.

Abadie’s arrest has ignited a discussion about traffic laws and whether drivers can be legally ticketed for using Google Glass. According to the Glass’ website, users are strongly urged to familiarize themselves with their local traffic laws as every region has their own ordinance regarding the use of such devices. Most states actually allow limited use of mobile phones as long as certain conditions are met, such as the use of an attachment that enables hands-free use.

[Read more: How Safe are Cell Phones?]

What California Law Says

California has one of the stiffest laws and penalties regarding the use of any form of mobile device while operating a vehicle. The state’s traffic laws prohibit motorists from using any form of video monitor that is visible to the driver while the vehicle is in motion. There is an exception, however, for GPS and other devices that are meant for displaying maps and aiding in navigation.

There is also California Code 27400, which really creates a sort of a grey area that a judge will likely have to interpret and decide in Abadie’s case. The code basically bans the use of headsets or anything that covers both ears. While later versions of Google Glass are expected to come with an ear piece, the one Abadie was using operated on speakers. Other states also impose a ban on headsets, including Rhode Island, which outlaws the use of any headphones and even earphones that only cover one ear. This is something that Google will need to tackle as they consider different prototype versions of the Glass.

The Debate Rages On

Abadie currently has a court date set for December, and the judge’s ruling could have far reaching implications regarding the lawful use of Google Glass while behind the wheel. Abadie has said that she will fight the citation as she firmly believes the officer was in the wrong and that she did not violate any traffic laws.

The incident also became the center of discussion among tech news sites and forums with strong opinions from both ends of the spectrum. Some have aggressively came to Abadie’s defense and believe that the citation is as irrational as ticketing someone for having a cell phone in the car. Others, however, believe she has no one to blame but herself for speeding. People in this end of the argument assert that her fixation with the Glass, whether it was switched on or not, prevented her from giving her full attention to driving.

[Recommended reading: 5 Serious Ways Gadgets Could Be Affecting Your Health]

Traffic Laws Need to be More Clear and Precise

Technology is everywhere these days. It has become such an integral component in our everyday lives that even the government is providing free mobile phones for low income families. Eligible customers will receive a free phone along with free monthly minutes. This just goes to show how dependent society has become on technology. With that being said, the question then is how to integrate that with current traffic laws. Distracted driving is against the law and prohibited for good reason. However, there has to be a fine line that distinguishes between distracted driving and using a device like the Google Glass. The latter does not really appear to constitute a driving hazard, at least not in the same degree as texting or using your phone with your hands, though there may be valid arguments for contending otherwise.

[Image credit: Antonio Zugaldia, Flickr]


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