New Gadgets Like Google Glass Portend More Distracted Driving

WVA State Representative Howell has introduced legislation to ban the use of all head-mounted displays while driving.

It’s tough keeping up with technology. Even the tech giants who develop the latest gadgets are so intent on having the most amazing innovation on the market, their own incredible gizmos seem to get outdated in a matter of months. A new product, Google Glass, scheduled to be released at the end of this year, has been causing a huge amount of pre-release excitement – and also some concern about safety.

Google Glass is, in its most basic form, an eyeglass mount with a small, voice-activated “computer” and a display attached to the right side of the frame. It’s quite an incredible product with capabilities like your smart phone, only hands-free and with advanced interactive capabilities. You can control music, get directions, take pictures, give voice commands and conduct video chats. The glasses don’t cover the whole eye, and the wearer has to look up slightly when looking at the display. And that has one state legislator very worried about the effect such a device could have on drivers.

West Virginia State Representative Gary G. Howell has introduced legislation that would ban the use of all head-mounted displays when a driver is behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. It’s unusual to ban a product that isn’t even on the market yet, but Howell sees Google Glass as an extension of the cell phone, which already has distracted driving laws on the books prohibiting using phones and texting while driving. Proposing legislation as Representative Howell has done now pre-empts the time it would take to pass the laws when the device becomes available to the public. The fines he proposed are relatively modest. The first offense would carry a fine of $100, with subsequent fines increasing by $100 each time, up to $300.

Arguments against banning Google Glass while driving are that the devices can actually
enhance driving safety by, for example, offering a GPS view that puts navigation information at eye level or accessing and listening to music without taking your eyes of the road or your hands off the wheel to look at a dashboard GPS or fiddle with a CD player or radio. But the potential for distraction is huge.

Apple has announced that it will release an iWatch, also later this year, which will perform some of the same functions that an iPhone or iPad currently provides. The display is large enough to be seen at a glance, and is said to make accessing data more convenient.

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