A San Diego traffic court has thrown out a citation against a woman ticketed for driving while wearing a Google Glass device.  If you haven’t heard about these; they’re essentially an eyeglass-like frame with a thumbnail-size transparent display above the right eye, which responds to voice commands.  It can be used to check email, learn background about something the wearer is looking at and get driving directions, etc.  Sounds pretty distracting right?

The San Diego traffic court commissioner ruled the driver was not guilty because she had been cited under a code requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt the device was in operation.  No such proof was provided in this case.  The commissioner did note that the California code specifically bars the operation of a video or TV screen while the vehicle is moving, which might have been broad enough to apply to the Google Glass.

What’s the law in Nova Scotia?

We all know you can’t use a cell-phone while driving, so where does a device like Google Glass fit in?  The Motor Vehicle Act[1] states that drivers cannot have ornaments, decorations, screens, or other things located in the car so that they obstruct the vision or distract the attention of the driver.[2]  It also states that you can’t drive a car with a screen, or other means of visually receiving a television broadcast, visible to the driver while he is operating the vehicle.[3]

Coupled with the duty to drive “in a careful and prudent manner”[4], one could see how a device like Google Glasses could “distract the attention of the driver”.  Most provinces in Canada have similar distracted driving legislation banning screens which are visible to the driver, with exceptions for GPS devices (although programming it while driving is banned).[5]

Unlike in California, the law in Nova Scotia does not require proof the device was in operation.  It is likely that if you’re wearing a Google Glass or similar device, or like the man in Alberta who was caught earlier in the month watching TV on his laptop while driving at night on an icy road, you could be ticketed for distracted driving.

This is an interesting story to keep an eye on, especially in light of a recent announcement by Google that they have invented contact lenses which can monitor glucose levels.  Three US states – Delaware, New Jersey, and West Virginia – have already introduced bills to ban driving with Google Glasses.