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Study Finds That Wearable Technology is Just as Distracting to Drivers as Cell Phones

23 April 2018

Murtuza Jadliwala, assistant professor of computer science at The University of Texas at San Antonio, has studied and examined the effect that wearable technology has on a driver and if it causes distracted driving. The study found that using a wearable device to text while driving reduces distraction slightly but drivers are more likely to use it, therefore it is just as dangerous as texting while driving.

Over a quarter of reported car accidents are caused by distracted driving and texting or talking on the phone while driving are among the biggest distractions cited. Nine people die in the U.S. every day and 330,000 injuries occur a year from distracted driving and texting while driving. Texting while driving is also the main cause of death in teenage drivers.

Researcher wearing the second generation of the Google Glass in 2014. Source: Alan AntczakResearcher wearing the second generation of the Google Glass in 2014. Source: Alan Antczak

To create a safe environment to measure distracted driving, Jadliwala worked with Jibo He, associate professor of psychology at Wichita State University, and Jason S. McCarley, professor of psychology at Oregon State University.

"We recruited about 20 volunteers on a university campus," Jadliwala said. "They used a driving simulator in a laboratory that included a three-screen display, a wheel and pedals."

The volunteers drove in the simulator with either a smartphone or Google Glass as their distracting source. The researchers sent text messages to the devices and the volunteers tried to drive safely while interacting with the text messages. The driving simulator recorded all changes in the steering wheel and if the drivers drifted while on the phone or using the Google Glass.

"We found that the Google Glass distracts the driver slightly less," he said. "But that also gave the participants a false sense of safety."

The wearable device responded quicker and had voice-activated controls. The drivers saw increased efficiency when using these options, but they were also more likely to use the devices, which canceled out any safety difference that the wearable device provided.

"We found that the Google Glass distracts the driver slightly less," he said. "But that also gave the participants a false sense of safety."

This study was published in Applied Ergonomics.



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