Google glasses and the application of California Traffic Laws

A California driver recently was ticketed for driving while wearing Google Glasses, a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display.


Cecilia Abadie is believed to be the first person to be cited while wearing the device and driving. San Diego Traffic Court Commissioner John Blair on Jan. 16 dismissed the charges though, saying that there was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the device was operating while she was driving.

Girl wearing Google Glasses

Girl wearing Google Glasses

However, Blair didn’t issue a ruling on the legality of driving while Google Glass is activated.

In California, it’s illegal to use a handheld cellphone or to text message while driving, and drivers under the age of 18 aren’t allowed to use handheld or hands-free cellphones. These laws were spurred on by safety concerns stemming from distracted driving. There are a couple of exceptions, however – handheld cellphones may be used by those operating emergency vehicles or to make an emergency call to a law enforcement agency, medical provider, fire department or other emergency service agency. Violations of these laws can come with steep penalties – a first offense of using a handheld cellphone while driving is $75, a second offense is $190. For texting, the first offense carries a $20 fine and each subsequent offense can set you back $50. Additional penalty assessments may make the fine more than double the base.

Devices like Google Glass, however, are such relatively new technology that the existing laws don’t specifically mention them, making it a bit of a slippery slope for the judicial system to determine whether and how they are applicable.

Abadie’s case ( likely marks the start of a number of similar challenges to the law. In addition to wearable devices, Mountain View-based Google has also been working with driverless cars, for instance. Meanwhile, legislators in at least three states — Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia – have introduced bills that would ban driving with Google Glass.

If you have been cited for using Google Glass or a similar device while driving, the Ginny Walia Law Offices can help.

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