Google Glass Wearer Ticketed for Distracted Driving

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on October 31, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a techie crime first, a California woman was ticketed for wearing Google Glass while driving.

Cecilia Abadie was pulled over by San Diego Police and slapped with a traffic ticket for speeding and "driving with monitor visible to driver (Google Glass)," reports Ars Technica.

The traffic ticket heard 'round the world, Abadie's Google Glass offense has sparked media frenzy and raises new legal questions about how the high-tech specs comports with distracted driving laws.

Google Glass

Google Glass, proclaimed by critics as the douchiest of status symbols, is a wearable computer in the form of high-tech "Tron"-slash-"Minority Report"-esque specs.

It displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format that allows you to surf the Internet, take photos and videos, and perform other functions through voice commands.

When it comes to technology, our traffic laws typically focus on texting while driving, using a cell phone, or watching television. But where does this leave Google Glass, an entirely hands-free device that isn't exactly an ordinary monitor?

California's Television Screen and Monitor Law

Under California law, it is unlawful for a person to "drive a motor vehicle if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen [...] is visible to the driver while driving the motor vehicle."

The law also prohibits "any other similar means of visually displaying a television broadcast or video signal that produces entertainment or business applications."

Given how broad the law's language is, Google Glass likely counts as a screen covered by the prohibition, and Abadie's use of the specs behind the wheel could potentially constitute distracted driving.

But if she used the glasses for mapping purposes, she could be off the hook.

California Law Exception: GPS and Mapping Display

The California rule provides exceptions for video equipment if it provides a "global positioning display" or "mapping display." Google Glass can of course be used as a GPS.

Still, Abadie may be out of luck. A California driver handbook addendum explicitly says drivers should not use monitors that "display anything other than vehicle information global mapping displays, external media player (MP3), or satellite radio information."

Abadie intends to fight the ticket and, given the evidentiary issues, may even prevail. The tech industry, legal scholars, lawmakers, and consumers will certainly be following the case with a close eye(glass).

In the meantime, Abadie may have to ditch her anti-social glasses when driving and, heaven forbid, engage with the real world again.

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