We hate to say we told you so, but we told you so: A number of states are pursuing legal action to make using Google Glass while driving illegal.
A story on NPR’s “All Things Considered” Monday, March 24 outlined it pretty well. At least seven states — Illinois, West Virginia, Missouri, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Wyoming — have proposed legislation that would impose penalties upon those drivers suspected of using Google Glass while driving.
West Virginia Republican state Delegate Gary Howell said, “Have they driven on mountain roads in West Virginia, where you’ve got one 15-mile-an-hour turn after another one, where you really need to be concentrating on what you’re doing? You could be wearing it, not looking at your driving but watching a video screen.”
To be fair, most of the proposed penalties are mundane, as traffic fines go — roughly equivalent to a minor speeding ticket in many jurisdictions. For example, New York’s proposed statute says, “A violation of this section shall be a traffic infraction and shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred fifty dollars.” Penalties are set up similarly in Delaware — first offense is $50, while subsequent offenses will be charged at a rate of not less than $100 but not more than $200. In Illinois’ proposed law, the worst fine you could be hit with is $150 — and then only after earning four or more tickets for using your Google Glass in traffic.
It is Missouri that stands out. Its proposal reads as follows:
Penalty upon the first offense is a class B misdemeanor, and the offender’s license would be suspended for a period
of 30 days with an additional 60 days of restricted driving privileges. A second offense would be considered a Class A Misdemeanor with a penalty of five days imprisonment, probation or parole, and 30 days of community service with a license revocation of at least one year. A third offense carries the penalty of a Class D Felony with a minimum of 10 days imprisonment. Additional penalties would include 60 days of community service, and the revocation of driving privileges for 10 years.
The question now is this: What is the burden of proof? How will an officer know you were flipping through photos rather than just adjusting your glasses? Will the courts be flooded with eyesight-challenged people like myself — folks who wear glasses to drive — who get wrongfully ticketed for Google Glass violations?
One has to wonder how many other states will join the fray and write their own legislation against “Glassing While Driving” before Google Glass even reaches the consumer marketplace. The NPR piece noted major insurance companies are mostly quiet on the subject. They’re probably too busy concocting schemes to turn Google Glass into the newest automotive ankle bracelet.
While one interview subject and Google Glass tester named Shane Walker said the technology was not distracting while driving — “Google did a good job of making it nonintrusive, so it’s not directly in your line of sight,” he said, — MIT Professor of Neuroscience Earl Miller disagreed:
You think you’re monitoring the road at the same time, when actually what you’re doing [is] you’re relying on your brain’s prediction that nothing was there before, half a second ago — that nothing is there now,” he says. “But that’s an illusion. It can often lead to disastrous results.
Google, of course, disagrees with that assessment, and is sending lobbyists to every nook and cranny of state and federal government to
buy off fight anti Glassing-while driving laws that seem unstoppable at this point in the game.
It took almost 20 years of cell phones being fairly common accessories for regular folks before handsfree device laws started cropping up nationally. Given all that has been learned in the intervening time period and the serious attitude distracted driving gets from state and federal highway safety officials, we wouldn’t look for it to take that long this time around.