Minority Report pictured a world where tech could apparently help prevent crimes before they happen. A West Virginia legislator wants to reverse that process by outlawing use of a new technology before it’s released.
Gary G Howell has introduced a bill to amend state law on using cellphone and other electronic communication devices while driving. At the moment the law specifically bans people from driving while texting or using a device that isn’t in hands-free mode. Howell wants to extend that ban to cover driving while “using a wearable computer with head mounted display.)
It’s no secret that this is a pre-emptive attempt to cover the use of Google’s Glass. Howell says he actually likes the idea of the product, a set of spectacles that Google believes will re-imagine the form factor of the smartphone. However, Howell says it’s previously taken a lot of work and political will to get a ban on texting while driving in West Virginia, so he doesn’t want to see that undone by new tech.
If passed in time, the new law would take effect on July 1st this year. The penalties would be the same as for texting or using a handheld phone: a $100 fine for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $300 for all subsequent offenses.
Howell told CNET that although he’s uncertain how the bill will get on in West Virginia, he believes it will prompt similar proposals in other states.
On an unconnected but linguistically geeky note, Howell is also proposing amending the law to use clearer language, for example by changing “shall mean” to “means.” “Shall” is a longstanding bugbear of plain language advocates who argue that although it looks clear and legally precise, it’s an ambiguous term open to several interpretations and doesn’t have a definitive legal meaning.
Howell has also added a note reading “The purpose of this bill is to provide that using a wearable computer with a head-mounted display violates the provisions of this section.” The idea here is to reduce the chances of a lawyer arguing for an interpretation of any wording in the law that would contradict the intentions of the law.