Posted On: May 14, 2014 by Nancy Barron

Distracted Driving - Take Two

Multi-tasking may be a feature of American life, but our habit of trying to do three things at once is increasingly dangerous on the highway. See previous post, Death By Texting, on this blog.

Even as we struggle to read cryptic road signs, respond to brake lights ahead, decide whether we can make it through an intersection before the light turns red, navigate construction zones, signal to change lanes, turn right, turn left, or take a detour, we are assailed by random verbal and visual information as we drive. Technology tempts us to answer our cell phone, read a text message, type in a response, delete an inapt autofail, listen to news of foreign wars or health policy on the radio, select a destination on the guidance map, check for store location and hours on Yahoo, ask Siri a question, or scroll through a digital Rolodex of personal contacts. Car manufacturers don't help. Onboard computer screens - which buyers demand and for which they will pay a premium - can include features as diverse as 3-D maps, diagrams of internal vehicle components, service alerts, a personal phone contact list for dialing while driving, and many more distractions.images.jpg

And then there's Google Glass. The California Vehicle Code does not currently bar the internet eyewear explicitly, and drivers over 18 are allowed to use hands-free devices under most circumstances (V.C. 23123-24). Nonetheless, there are reports of CHP officers ticketing drivers wearing Google Glass under the law against watching a TV or video monitor while behind the wheel. That activity is not allowed, although watching a video monitor is not much different that the lawful activity of watching an ever-changing road guidance map. One driver was able to convince a Southern California judge the Google Glass features were turned off at the time she was pulled over. But, who wants to have to make that argument to a court?

The Google Glass controversy is one example of how lawmakers and law enforcement are trying to keep up with technology. The rules of the road are changing constantly. Those rules differ from state to state. Enforcement varies greatly. As the summer road trip season approaches, travelers can expect inconsistency. Drivers are wise to err on the side of caution. If in doubt about the legality of a multi-tasking activity, unplug or pull over. And meanwhile, let your passenger wear the Glass.