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West Virginia seeks Google Glass driving ban

No funny cat videos for motorists

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The next time Sergey Brin visits West Virginia, he'd better think twice before getting behind the wheel. Lawmakers in that state have proposed a new law banning the use of Google Glass and similar headsets while driving.

"The problem with [Glass] – and this might not be the right term – is that it's an open architecture," Delegate Gary Howell, lead sponsor of the bill, told El Reg. "So you can watch funny cat videos while you're driving down the highway, which probably isn't a good idea."

The proposed bill would amend West Virginia's existing traffic-safety law, passed during the last legislative session, which prohibits drivers from using all electronic devices except those with "hands-free features".

According to Howell, the current language of the law doesn't adequately cover head-mounted displays such as Google Glass and its inevitable competitors.

"They're hands-free too, but they defeat the purpose of what our intent was," Howell said.

Howell, a Republican, admits that there are probably many applications for Glass that could potentially be useful for drivers, such as GPS navigation. The trouble, he says, is that there's no way of knowing whether a particular driver is using the device responsibly.

What's more, Howell says, even a GPS app could potentially be distracting for many drivers if it was projected directly into their eyes.

"One of the comments I kept hearing is that it's just like a HUD in a jet fighter, but that's not quite right," Howell said. "The mechanics are the same, but the HUD is delivering information critical to the operation of the vehicle. Also, the pilot has probably had millions of dollars' worth of training. And can you imagine what his CO would say if he knew he was watching cat videos?"

Howell says he has yet to see Google Glass in person, but he's curious to try it out – and he has no problem with its use anywhere but behind the wheel.

"The people who talk about privacy issues are being silly," Howell said. "When you're walking down a public street, you have no expectation of privacy there."

He added that owners of private property, such as homes and businesses, would be perfectly within their rights to ban the use of the devices – as the owner of the 5-Point Café in Seattle, Washington has already done.

If the law passes both houses of the West Virginia legislature, the ban on Glass while driving will take effect on July 1, 2013.

After that, Brin and other headset aficionados will need to find another way to navigate the state's highways. A self-driving car, perhaps? ®

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