Google battles laws restricting Glass while driving

Google is lobbying at least three states, but does Glass actually raise safety concerns?

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
February 25, 2014
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When Google recently released its list of Glass etiquette, it mentioned not being a creeper who stands in the corner taking pictures of people, and also not wearing it while playing contact sports. Those are both pieces of good advice, if you ask me. But one thing was absent from that list: there was no mention of not wearing the device while driving.

Now we know that there is a good reason that Google left that one off: it is actually lobbying against laws in at least three states that would prohibit drivers from wearing Glass while behind the wheel, according to a report out from Reuters on Tuesday.

While eight states have at least considered regulating the device, Google is so far attempting to persuade officials in Illinois, Delaware and Missouri that such laws are not necessary.

Of the other states who are discussing such laws, New York, Maryland and West Virginia, told Reuters that they not yet been contacted by Google, while officials in New Jersey and Wyoming did not respond to requests for comment.

“Technology issues are a big part of the current policy discussion in individual states,” the company said in a statement to VatorNews.

“We think it is important to be part of that discussion and to help policymakers understand new technologies including Glass. Glass is currently in the hands of a small group of Explorers but we find that when people try it for themselves they realize that Glass is not meant to distract but rather connect you more with the world around you.”

The debate

With Glass probably coming out within the next few months, there is obviously going to be big debate about whether or not these laws are necessary.

From my point of view the laws are necessary, and here is why.

For full disclosure, I grew up in New York City, so I have never had to drive a car, though living in California now will eventually necessitate it. But things like texting while driving are a personal pet peeve of mine. I've been in at least one really major accident in my life that was caused by a distracted driver, so I know the damage that can be done by someone who is not paying attention.

The stats about how technology increases the chances of an accident are striking. 

A film made last year about the dangers of texting while driving, which was sponsored by major mobile phone companies like AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile, stated that 100,000 or more accidents a year are caused by the practice.

Another study, which as conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, and released at the end of July of last year, showed just what effect this type of distraction has on drivers. Basically, it found hat using an electronic device in any capacity was likely to cause an accident.

Those dialing a cell phone in a light car were found to be 2.8 times more likely to cause an accident. Talking or listening made the likelihood go up 1.3 times, and just reaching for an electronic device increased the risk of causing a crash go up times 1.4.

And when it came to heavy vehicles, and trucks, the risk was even higher. Dialing a phone made the risk of an accident 5.9 times as high as a non-distracted driver. Talking or listening to a phone made the risk 1.0 times as high. Reaching for a device made the risk 6.7 times as high.

But here's the real doozy: texting in a heavy vehicle made the risk of crash 23.2 times as high as non-distracted driving.

Now, is using Glass akin to texting while driving? I can't say because I, like most people, have never worn Glass, but it is certainly possible that having something on their head that comes down in front of their face would impede the vision of the driver.

That is not to mention if the driver is trying to read something on the device while operating a vehicle. I get that drivers don't have their eyes on the road every second, as they need to read signs, change the radio station, etc. But its all about how long they take their eyes off. 

I know that when I text I have to take my eyes off of what’s in front of me for at least 10 seconds. Obviously Glass is mostly voice activated, so it does not require the driver to look away, but if someone is trying to read an article, or watch a video, in front of their face while driving a car, that would seem to me to be so much worse. 

For me, I generally come down on the side of safety, even if that means impeding on someone else's freedom just a little bit. My view is always going to be that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. And if that means banning Glass for people in their cars because someone people might misuse it, then so be it. Its worth it if it saves even just one life. 

I'd be very interested to hear what you all think about this debate!

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