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Driving with Google Glass: Viewing Distractions Through Rose-Colored Glasses?

A piece of legislation was recently introduced in the state of Illinois to ban the use of Google Glass, a new hands-free computer that is worn like eye glasses and takes pictures and responds to voice commands. The proposed ban is related to concerns about the potential for distracted driving accidents caused by motorists wearing Google Glass. Many are watching to see whether the legislation will prompt other states to adopt similar restrictions.

What is Google Glass?

Google Glass is a tiny, wearable computer mounted on the frame of glasses that allows users to get directions, take photos and videos, send messages, and even do voice translations. All of this information is displayed right in the user’s line of sight, through a lens. The headset operates on voice commands from the user. Google Glass is creating a buzz even before it goes on the market. While this might be a great move for technology, this could be a dangerous move for distracted driving accidents.

Driver distraction by activities including interacting with electronics in automobiles is being increasingly recognized as a significant source of serious car accidents and fatal crashes.

Illinois is trying to prevent distracted driving accidents related to Google Glass by banning the use of it while driving before it has been released. Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein, who introduced the legislation, said people need to remain focused on driving, and Google Glass was yet another type of electronic distraction. “It’s just another way people will be distracted, Silverstein said. “People’s attention to the road should not be interrupted.”

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving occurs when drivers are doing anything that takes their attention away from the road. This might include using a cell phone, texting and driving, eating, grooming, talking to passengers and more. In 2012, about 3,328 people were killed on America’s highways due to distracted driving.

Distracted driving is a significant, but underreported danger. While more than 70% of Americans think that hands-free devices are safer, studies say otherwise. A 2013 study of cognitive distraction among motorists commissioned by the American Automobile Association found that using speech-to-text systems on hands-free phones and electronic devices to send and receive emails and text messages produced a high level of distraction. The study said a rush to voiced-based interactions with electronics in cars may have unintended consequences and jeopardize highway safety.

Google Glass could be a new threat on the road, according to studies that show that Americans think hands-free devices are safer when they really offer a false sense of security.

Will Illinois Lead The Way?

As Google Glass technology becomes more widely available, it’s likely that many states will follow Illinois’ lead and look at ways to restrict the use of the devices while driving. Lawmakers in Delaware and West Virginia have already introduced proposals that recommend treating Google Glass just like texting and driving.

New York prohibits drivers from using handheld cell phones and electronics, but does permit the use of hands-free mobile phones. The state has passed restrictions on truck drivers using cell phones. To date, New York lawmakers have not passed legislation specifically addressing Google Glass. Robert Sinclair, a New York spokesman for the American Automotive Association, told the New York Daily News that it was pretty obvious that an activity that requires the preoccupation of one of your eyes, thus depriving a driver of stereoscopic vision, is something that should not be done while driving.

The growth of technology is a wonderful thing, until that growth threatens motorists due to distracted driving. Since 2005, distracted driving accidents have increased by more than 50%. As that is the case, it is reasonable that lawmakers want to prevent users from wearing potentially distracting devices while driving.

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