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Friday, 04 February 2011 08:41

Video Gamers are riskier drivers


Fancy yourself a bit of a hot-shot when it comes to virtual driving?  Got plenty of money and a stable full of dream machines in Gran Turismo 5? Earned Kudos through the roof on Project Gotham Racing?  Can hang tough with the best of them online in Need For Speed, Blur or Hot Pursuit?  Well, according to a new study, you may not be so competent when you get behind the wheel of a real-world vehicle.

The study, commissioned by tyre manufacturer Continental Tyres quizzed 2,000 folks from the UK, dividing them essentially into gamers and non-gamers of driving games.  Turns out non-gamers, or people who simply play Tetris, Plants Versus Zombies or Call of Duty (the non-driving bits) are less likely to crash, run a red light and generally, more successful at basic driving manoeuvres.

'This is an interesting piece of research. It seems that while gamers develop useful skills and are more confident, they need to apply some balance with a sensible assessment of risk,' safety expert for Continental Tyres, Tim Bailey said.

'Playing computer games means good concentration levels and improved reaction times; however, they can take more risks than non-gaming drivers, possible due to the lack of real consequence in games.'

The researchers managed to divide the 2000 participants aged 17 to 39 into two even groups labelled gamers and non-gamers and ran them through a series of questions related to their driving abilities and history.

It found while gamers think they are better behind the wheel, in reality they are far from it. They rate their driving skill at an average of six out of ten, compared to non-gamers' five.

Gamers also claimed to have quicker reaction times, better anticipation of events and great understanding of the car's dynamics, such as gear changes and cornering.


However, when quizzed further, they tend to speed more often, claim on their insurance more regularly and believe that any problem can be solved by resetting their game.

Gamers also appear to be worse parkers, having crashed into more stationary objects and are twice as likely to scare others with their antics on the road.  Still, it is difficult to have clear vision after a long session of staring at a screen, so surely this is excusable.

It also emerged that the longer they spend on games like Grand Theft Auto and Gran Turismo each week, the worse they are behind the wheel - with the research revealing that those who play for more than eight hours a week have been in three times as many accidents as someone who plays for less an hour.  This is surprising as gamers spending this much time in front of their televisions possibly have reduced on-road hours by comparison.

Non-gamers did not emerge completely squeaky clean in the research either, with the study showing those who have not picked up a games controller take at least one more attempt on average before passing their test and have caused twice as many prangs to their vehicle in the last year.

One in five gamers said it makes them a better driver and more than half would be confident to teach a learner driver compared to 21 per cent of non-gamers. But just 16 per cent of motorists were in agreement that playing driving games makes some a better driver, while four in ten said video games contribute to reckless driving.

Law enforcement seems to be attracted to gamer drivers with 22 per cent claiming to have been stopped by police, whilst only 13 per cent of non-gamers.  Thankfully there is no indication of how many of the 22 per cent think a car-chase would be a hoot just as it is in Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit.



Gamers are much more likely than non-gamers to use a mobile phone when driving (19% versus 12%), run a red light in the past 12 months (31% versus 14%), suffer road rage (45% versus 22%), speed (25% versus 13%), or the rather amusing conclusion that 26 per cent of gamer drivers are likely to scare others with their driving habits compared with 11 per cent of non-gamers.  One could argue perhaps that gamers are more honest than non-gamers in their quiz answers.

Only seven per cent of drivers believed driving games help you become more alert in real life and assess risk more accurately.

'The most important issues for driving safely are concentration, an appreciation of road and vehicle conditions and an awareness of potential risks,' Bailey said.

'Clearly, driving games can develop these skills but that has to be balanced - driving on public roads is never a race.'

The Australian Censorship Board restricts video-games destined for store shelves.  Usually a particularly gory or adult themed title is likely to incur the wrath of the board, but perhaps the games that are more damaging to society are those where the reality blurs so much that people believe a simple 'reload' will get them back on the road again within seconds.

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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