Illinois Sen. Ira Silverstein wants to ban Illinois drivers from using Google Glass, even before complaints about drivers using it have become an issue. Silverstein has been pushing a Google Glass ban for some time, even before it became available for the general public to buy, and this week representatives from Google went to the General Assembly to demonstrate how Glass works.
According to Silverstein, Google Glass is “potentially more distracting than texting and driving” since it’s “in your peripheral vision.” But this is quite the distortion. On the contrary, using Google Glass is very different from using a device that requires you to completely divert your eyes from the road and press buttons or tap a screen. When texting, you have to both move at least one hand from the wheel and look away from the road in front of you. Google Glass requires neither of these.
If anything, the technology promises to make driving much safer. With the capability of apps such as “Drive Safe,” which alerts distracted and drowsy drivers to refocus on the road or to pull over to a rest stop based on eye movements, Glass can help address a major driving hazard. With this kind of customization, you would think legislators would be lining up to urge more drivers to use Google Glass, not trying to ban it.
More practically, a ban on Google Glass presents a problem for law enforcement since there’s no way to tell it’s active before pulling a driver over. At least one ticket already has been dismissed in California, which has a similar law, for this very reason. Does Illinois have the resources for police officers to issue tickets that very likely may be overturned in courts? Surely police have more urgent traffic concerns and judges have more pressing legal issues to address.
Of course, this is the danger of “solutions in search of a problem.” Overzealous legislators and regulators jump to restrict the use of a new technology well before they have evidence of harm, or even have used the technology themselves. And in doing so, they prevent the adoption of technologies that may make driving safer. Legislators need to think longer and learn the facts before rushing to restrict choice.