The Google Glass Ticket Heard Round the World: Person Cited for Driving While Wearing

She was actually pulled over for speeding.

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Cecilia Abadie was out for a drive, apparently driving a little too fast and so noticed by a police officer, who pulled her over for speeding and issued a ticket. That’s the story you’re less likely to hear, because the other one about her being cited for wearing Google Glass after the fact is racing across the interwebs like wildfire.

Taking to her Google Plus page, Abadie wrote this on Wednesday:

A cop just stopped me and gave me a ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving! The exact line says: Driving with Monitor visible to Driver (Google Glass). Is #GoogleGlass ilegal [sic] while driving or is this cop wrong??? Any legal advice is appreciated!! This happened in California. Do you know any other #GlassExplorers that got a similar ticket anywhere in the US?

It’s not clear why Abadie fails to mention that she was stopped for speeding while driving north on I-15 in San Diego, or why the California Highway Patrol officer added the Glass violation afterward. The former doesn’t make for as interesting a story, I guess.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Glass citation — “driving with a monitor visible to driver” — refers to California Vehicle Code 27602, which makes it illegal to

…drive a motor vehicle if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, or any other means of visually displaying a television broadcast or video signal that produces entertainment or business applications is operating and is located in the motor vehicle at a point forward of the back of the driver’s seat, or is operating and the monitor, screen, or display is visible to the driver while driving the motor vehicle.

But as Android Headlines notes, there are technological exceptions to this, specifically:

A visual display used to enhance or supplement the driver’s view forward, behind, or to the sides of a motor vehicle for the purpose of maneuvering the vehicle.

Technically speaking, that line doesn’t refer to something like a Garmin or GPS, it’s describing the dash-embedded screens sometimes found in higher-end vehicles that display side- or rear-mounted cameras — designed to help the driver backup without having to look over their shoulder. “Maneuvering” in this case means tactically maneuvering, not locationally navigating, though to be fair, it’s also true that many if not all vehicles with this type of display include built-in GPS systems. I’m not aware of a state that bans the use of embedded or dash-mounted GPS systems, which is where we head into the weeds and much semantic wrangling over whether dash-mounted/embedded screens, free-floating phones and head-mounted glasses that offer the same functionality are equally safe, equally dangerous, or somewhere in between.

The reason anyone cares is this: there’s a war looming between technophiles (and pundits) and politicians to dictate the ongoing fate of wearable technology in various high-risk categories (say while operating a two-ton vehicle hurtling down the road at 30, 40, 50 or more miles per hour). Neither the technophiles nor the politicians are qualified to make generalizations about the safety of head-mounted technology in these scenarios, and yet they do, in some cases leaping to preemptive policy conclusions.

I’ve written at length about this issue before. I’ve been careful not to make presumptions absent evidence. I don’t know whether we should or shouldn’t ban Google Glass while driving — not yet. The evidence isn’t in, and wanting something to be the case (or intuiting it) doesn’t make it so. Maybe, as I’ve suggested, driving with Google Glass in some sort of restrictive mode limiting you to GPS information would be safer, since your head is up, your eyes are forward and you’re only looking slightly away when scanning Glass’s tiny display monocle.

But that’s a guess, and human multitasking capabilities — especially while operating a motor vehicle traveling at high speeds — aren’t metrics you just gut-pull from the book of common sense. Best to note what’s happened here — if Abadie appeals the ticket or gets a lawyer involved this could get interesting — then move along, saving your indignation for both the pundits and politicians leaping to policy conclusions absent evidence.