Wearable tech also blamed for distracted driving

Wearable technology is one of the reasons behind distracted driving, a new study by scientists at The University of Texas at San Antonio has concluded.

Researchers discovered that while a driver texting with a wearable device can marginally reduce their level of distraction, it ultimately makes texting while driving just as dangerous as with an ordinary cell phone.

More than a quarter of car accidents reported each year are attributed to some form of distraction among drivers, often the result of talking or texting while driving. Nine people are estimated to die every day in the U.S. from distracted driving and 330,000 injuries occur each year because of texting while driving, which is also the most common cause of death in teenagers.

Researchers created a safe environment where distracted driving could be measured. After that they recruited about 20 volunteers on a university campus and used a driving simulator in a laboratory that included a three-screen display, a wheel and pedals.

Student volunteers were tasked with “driving” in the simulator, using either a smart phone or Google Glass. Jadliwala and his collaborators sent the participants text messages and challenged them to drive safely while receiving and responding to the messages. The simulator recorded deviations in the steering wheel and whether the volunteers drifted out of their lane.

Researchers found that the Google Glass distracts the driver slightly less, but that also gave the participants a false sense of safety.

Because the wearable device responded quicker and used voice-activated controls, the drivers noticed the increased efficiency but also were more likely to engage with the device, which negated the marginal safety difference between the smart phone and the wearable device.

While Google stopped producing Google Glass in 2015, wearable technology is becoming increasingly popular. Jadliwala noted that wrist wearables such as Apple Watch has been very successful and that more modern head-mounted displays like Google Glass are in development.