The first legal battle over whether a Californian woman was or wasn’t using a brand new technology and whether it meant she was distracted while driving is about to play itself out in California courts. It could be a forerunner of many other related legal issues in the future here in Florida.
The woman, a tech devotee and software developer in her own right was one of a number of people across the U.S. who had been chosen to trial the new Google Glass technology. She was pulled over on a highway near San Diego CA for allegedly speeding at 80 mph in a 65 mph zone. When the California Highway Patrol officer spoke to her, he noticed that she was wearing Goggle glasses and gave her a citation for wearing them while driving. More specifically, he gave her a ticket for speeding and a ticket for distracted driving. The woman, Cecilia Abadie, has pleaded not guilty to both offenses in a San Diego traffic court and is prepared to fight the charges.
Google Glasses are still not commercially available to the public. They incorporate a miniaturized computer screen into one corner of a lens on a pair of specially made spectacles and can be used to access email and the internet while the glasses are being worn. The glasses respond to head movements and hibernate if the wearer’s head is not in constant motion.
Ms. Abadie is one of around 10,000 people who were trialing the glasses. She claims as part of her defense that she was not actually using the glasses while she was driving, but the device activated itself automatically when she tilted her head up to talk to the CHP officer. The citation she was given would normally have been given out to a driver who was observed using an in-car TV or video screen. Ms. Abadie’s defense attorney, William Concidine, says that the citation is not applicable to the sort of mobile technology that his client was wearing.
According to a Google spokesperson, this case is the first time that anyone has been charged with using this type of technology. When Google first announced the technology earlier this year, it was thought that it was probably only a matter of time before the use of the device would be tested in court. Google, in fact, does give a warning about its use to potential drivers on its own website. It advises wearers of the headgear to make sure they follow the law and above all ensure they do not put themselves or anyone else on the roads in danger.
The new technology uses a small, transparent display and a camera in the corner of the glasses. It responds to voice commands and is designed to be used to check emails or give information about what the wearer is looking at or provide driving directions.
In this particular incident, the prosecution will probably have a difficult job proving that the Google Glasses were actually being used while Ms. Abadie was driving. No doubt many state authorities will be watching the legal developments with interest. Three states have already introduced bills that specifically prohibit the use of Google Glass technology while driving. They are New Jersey, Delaware and West Virginia.
Here in Florida, the recent introduction of a statute that prohibits texting on cell phones while driving has not meant a surge in the number of citations for distracted driving, despite the fact that cell phone use while driving can lead to more accidents than being drunk, according to the statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
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