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Is ‘Google Glass’ legal to wear when driving a car in Michigan?

November 11, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

Or does wearing  ‘Google Glass’ in the car violate existing driving laws in Michigan and other states?

google-glass-explorer

This past Saturday, I wrote about the California woman who was given a ticket for wearing the new Google Glass while she was driving her car.  After I wrote that, I started to wonder if the same would happen here in Michigan. Specifically,  is wearing Google Glass while driving a car in Michigan legal or not?

Let me be very clear – this is my own personal opinion.  I’ve checked and there is no  case law or statutory authority directly on point as of this writing. So this is simply my own personal opinion as an attorney of where I believe things will go.

But if I had to bet, and if you’re one of the lucky ones out there who already has access to Google Glass, I wouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to wear them on the road when you go out for a drive.

At least, not  in Michigan.

There is a traffic law that most people – including (I would bet) most police officers and most personal injury attorneys like me – have never even heard of that will  prevent  new users from  wearing these Google Glasses in the car.

Why do I think Google Glass will be illegal to wear when driving a car?

First, I have to make a personal disclosure –  I want one.  This product is simply amazing.  It’s  exciting to wonder if this is a peek into what the future holds for us.  With its hands-free power through the use of  voice commands to display text, take, record and view photos and videos and send and read text messages and e-mail on a translucent screen before a driver’s eyes, Google Glass seems simply spectacular.

But these same amazing features will likely violate Michigan law (and many other states also have similar statutes that would make Google Glass likewise illegal to wear while operating a car).

The statute in Michigan prohibits:

Drivers from “operat[ing] a motor vehicle … upon the highways of this state with … [an] electronic device that displays a video image that can be viewed by the operator while the motor vehicle is in motion.” (MCL 257.708b(1))

As I see the issue, Google Glass fits the definition of a prohibited “electronic device” to a “G.” And no matter how amazing the product is, do we really want people to be watching last week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” while driving their car on the highway?

You can judge for yourself.  Check out the Google Glass simulations on the website’s “How It Feels” page.

Michigan is not be the only state where Google Glass’s “road worthiness” is in doubt.

Back to the California case.  A driver who has identified herself on Google + and Twitter as a “Glass Pioneer” and apparently as a “Glass Explorer,” made the national news on October 30, 2013, when she posted on her Google+ account that she had been ticketed for using Google Glass while driving, according to a Huffington Post article.

(Note: For more about Glass Explorers, see below.)

The California driver was cited for violating California’s VC 27602(a), which, much like Michigan’s law, provides:

“A person shall not drive a motor vehicle if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, or any other similar 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.”

How will the states respond to Google Glass?

As I said above, this amazing product is so new that there is almost no case law or statutory authority.  But that is already starting to change. The Huffington Post also reported that legislation to prohibit use of Google Glass while driving has already been introduced in Delaware and West Virginia.

State Rep. Joe Miro (R-Pike Creek) said he introduced House Bill 155 to prohibit Delaware drivers from using a “wearable computer with a head-mounted display” while driving because, according to Delawareonline.com:

Google Glass is “an even bigger distraction than other technologies out there that we already prohibit while driving.”

Similarly, West Virginia Delegate Gary G. Howell introduced House Bill 3057 to establish “the offense of operating a motor vehicle using a wearable computer with a head-mounted display” because, according to CNET.com:

“We [Howell and other lawmakers] heard of many crashes caused by texting and driving … I see the Google Glass as an extension.”

Glass Explorers – your Glass is full, not half empty (just please take them off when driving!)

Only a very lucky few people have actually set their eyes – or their hands – on Google Glass.  And I’m not one of them, unfortunately.

It appears access is being limited to a rather elite group of “Glass Explorers” (of which the California driver discussed above is apparently one). Well, to paraphrase one of my favorite scenes from the movie Caddyshack, at least she had that going for her [before her ticket]) who have been hand-picked by Google to “get involved … and help shape the future of Glass.”

According to the Google Glass website’s “How To Get One” page, to be considered for “Glass Explorer” status, one must apply and answer “Why are you interested in Glass?”

So, to you lucky few Glass Explorers who are out there driving around with Google Glass right now, I have to admit I’m a little envious and I can’t wait to try them out myself.

Just take them off before you get behind the wheel.

Unless, that is, you are getting into a Google Automated Car.

But that, and the future of Google cars, is a different story for a different day.

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3 Replies to “Is ‘Google Glass’ legal to wear when driving a car in Michigan?”

  1. I am a Glass explorer from Michigan and have driven while wearing Glass. I can say that it is far less distracting than any other device out there, and a majority of the time the display is off anyways. I wonder if the sleeping display is a loophole for the “monitor being visible”.

  2. I am also a Glass Explorer in East Lansing, MI, but I have not worn Glass while driving yet. I can say though that the device is not distracting, or much less so than a cellphone. Also, the “display” is transparent mostly, and sits just slightly above your direct line of vision. Even still, when you look in that direction, you can still see what is in front of you. The display sleeps most of the time, and as of yet does not display “video” images like watching a movie does, at least not during standard use and I cannot imagine any normal person would try to watch a video while driving through glass. I think that could be a loophole in that statute. I think, though, that I will remain cautious and not wear it while driving. I would hope that regulators would actually try Glass out before making new laws restricting it. Great article and food for thought!

  3. To be honest, I think driving with glass on is less distracting than trying to change the radio station on the touch screen in my car. The display is transparent and the voice activation is easier to use than the sync system in the car. Luckily I haven’t been pulled over yet (as I don’t want to be michigan’s first case) but I find it doesn’t distract me at all – but then again I’m not playing games or reading emails on it.

    What most people don’t understand is that 90% of the time you’re wearing it, it’s just a clear glass lens with nothing on it. Unless you activate the screen it’s just a small clear lens. Alerts don’t automatically light up either – they just beep and you have to touch it or tilt your head to turn the screen on.

    My biggest issue is with people who assume I’m always recording. It doesn’t work that way either.

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