SPRINGFIELD | Even before they go on sale to the masses, an Illinois lawmaker wants to ban motorists from wearing Google’s new computerized glasses while driving.
State Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, filed legislation last week that would give police another tool to fight what he says would be distracted driving.
Patterned after similar proposals in Delaware and West Virginia, the measure would piggyback on the state’s new law banning drivers from using mobile phones while they drive unless they use a hand’s free device.
“It’s just another way people will be distracted,” Silverstein said. “People’s attention to the road should not be interrupted.”
Google Glass is not yet for sale on a widespread basis. Featuring a small video display on the lens in front of the right eye, the eyeglass-like frames can search the Internet, make phone calls and do many of the same things a smart phone can do.
Concerned that motorists will spend more time watching YouTube videos or checking their Facebook pages than keeping their eyes -- and minds -- on the road, state legislators have jumped into the debate.
In West Virginia, state Delegate Gary Howell introduced legislation that could come up for debate in a committee early next year.
“It is incredible technology, but it doesn’t belong on the road,” the Republican from Keyser said. “There’s no way law enforcement officers can tell whether you’re watching a cat video or using your GPS system.”
While opponents have called him a “Luddite” for trying to stop advances in new technology, Howell said he’s been fielding calls from police groups throughout the country seeking advice on how to implement the law.
“I talked to the California Highway Patrol yesterday. They wanted to know how my proposal would work,” Howell said.
In Illinois, it remains unclear whether a new law is even needed.
When contacted for information about the issue, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police forwarded a copy of the state’s traffic laws regarding operating a motor vehicle while watching a video monitor.
While that law allows the video display of vehicle information, maps, rear cameras and navigation, it bars people from watching television or movies while they operate a vehicle.
In a statement, Google spokeswoman Anna Richardson White said wearers should always use Glass responsibly and put their safety and the safety of others first.
"More broadly, Glass is built to connect you more with the world around you, not distract you from it," Richardson White noted.
On its Glass website, the Internet giant cautions drivers to know the rules of the road.
“As you probably know, most states have passed laws limiting the use of mobile devices while driving any motor vehicle, and most states post those rules on their department of motor vehicles websites,” the company notes. “Read up and follow the law! Above all, even when you’re following the law, don’t hurt yourself or others by failing to pay attention to the road.”
However, one application being promoted by the Internet giant appears to promote the wearing of the glasses while driving.
The company has developed a system in which wearers can direct the glasses to translate road signs into different languages, suggesting that a motorist driving in a foreign country could wear them and still find their way around.
The legislation is not Silverstein’s first venture into pop culture safety.
Previously he has introduced legislation requiring children to wear helmets when they are skiing and riding bikes. He also has sponsored legislation designed to better regulate online dating websites.
The legislation is Senate Bill 2632.