A new study from a team at the University of Texas at San Antonio has found that texting using wearable technology while driving does not reduce the risk of accidents, compared with texting using a conventional mobile phone.

Assistant professor of computer science at the university Dr Murtuza Jadliwala worked with associate professor of psychology at Wichita State University Jibo He and professor of psychology at Oregon State University Jason S. McCarley, to investigate the relationship between wearable technology and the ability of drivers to concentrate on the road.

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

The volunteers were asked to drive using the simulator and tasked with responding to text messages sent by the scientists, either using a smart phone or Google Glass, while driving safely. The simulator recorded deviations in the steering wheel and whether the drivers drifted out of their lane as they were responding to messages.

The team found that the voice-activated commands and fast responses of the Glass both improved and undermined safety. Volunteers were able to text without major distractions using the wearable, making individual responses to text messages less dangerous, but the ease of use of the Glass meant volunteers interacted with it more frequently than conventional mobile phones, increasing the number of times their attention was diverted from the road.

“We found that the Google Glass distracts the driver slightly less, but that also gave the participants a false sense of safety,” said Jadliwala.

“It’s important to keep asking these questions as technology becomes a bigger part of our everyday lives. A wearable device feels more accessible because it’s on your body, which is why it’s important to study how it could impact tasks like driving.”

With the wearable technology market only predicted to grow over time – Forbes estimates that the market will double in size by 2021 – research like Jadliwala’s could be important in improving long-term road safety. Currently, more than a quarter of US car accidents reported each year are attributed to drivers being distracted, and nine people are estimated to die every day as a result of distracted driving.