Proposed Google Glass Driving Ban Lacks Support in West Virginia House

If the proposed ban on driving with head-mounted displays like Google Glass isn't reviewed by the West Virginia House soon, it won't be voted on this year.

Google Glass users won't have to worry any time soon about taking the devices off if they drive through West Virginia, because a proposed ban on driving while wearing such devices is going nowhere fast in the state's House of Delegates.

The proposed ban on driving while wearing head-mounted displays was introduced in the state's legislature recently by Gary Howell, a Republican state representative in West Virginia's 56th district.

Howell's main concern with the devices is that they create safety issues such as driver distraction, especially for younger, less-experienced drivers who might be among the users most likely to buy such technology.

However, the bill is having a tough time in this legislative session. It would have to go through a Roads and Transportation Committee meeting and then be read three times on the House floor on three consecutive days soon to be considered for a vote before the House's members, Howell told eWEEK in an email.

"It is most likely dead" for this year, Howell wrote. The bill would have to clear a lot of legislative hurdles to make it to what is called "cross-over day," which is when all proposed bills must be passed out of their House of origin for consideration as laws. "From that point on until the end of the 2013 session on April 13, the House will only be working on Senate bills and vice versa," which makes its consideration by the House this year unlikely, he wrote.

Howell created his proposed bill after he read news stories about Google Glass and realized that they are related to other handheld electronic devices that were banned from use by drivers under a law enacted last year. The new problem with devices such as Google Glass is that last year's law didn't specifically address the use of head-mounted displays, which would potentially allow their unregulated use.

Because Google Glass and similar competitive products would likely be seen as hands-free devices, they'd initially be allowed under the new law, he said. That presents a problem because of their unique potential to be a distraction while driving because of their head-mounted displays that can display information in front of a user's eyes, he said.

Howell said he remains undaunted, however, by the lack of support for his proposed bill at this time.

"I will be introducing a study resolution, which means we will study the effects of driving with a head-mounted display over the interim between sessions," he wrote. "We meet each month for three days a month and have various hearings" in which experts on the technology will be asked to testify and answer questions. "If we do that, I would like to invite Google to provide a demonstration and explain if they will have some type of feature that will turn off everything" that could distract drivers who are wearing the devices.

Howell conceded that some features of Google Glass, such as its built-in GPS capabilities, "could be helpful [while] driving."

When asked if Google would consider testifying at such a hearing, a Google spokesman told eWEEK March 28 that "we aren't going to speculate about our actions, though as noted previously, we do welcome feedback and conversation about these important issues."