Video racing games may spur risky driving: study

WASHINGTON Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:03pm GMT

A visitor to the New York International Auto Show plays a video game that simulates driving a Volkswagon GTI in New York April 13, 2006. People who play car racing video games may be more prone to drive recklessly and get into accidents, according to a study that adds to evidence that video games can influence the behavior of some players. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

A visitor to the New York International Auto Show plays a video game that simulates driving a Volkswagon GTI in New York April 13, 2006. People who play car racing video games may be more prone to drive recklessly and get into accidents, according to a study that adds to evidence that video games can influence the behavior of some players.

Credit: Reuters/Keith Bedford

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - People who play car racing video games may be more prone to drive recklessly and get into accidents, according to a study that adds to evidence that video games can influence the behavior of some players.

The study by German researchers published on Sunday examined the effect these games, featuring realistic driving environments with players often racing through city and suburban traffic, affect people who play them.

"Driving actions in these games often include competitive and reckless driving, speeding and crashing into other cars or pedestrians, or performing risky stunts with the vehicle. In short, most actions in racing games imply a very high risk of having an accident or severe crash in a highly realistic virtual road traffic environment," the researchers wrote.

The researchers first questioned 198 men and women. Those who played the games most often were more likely to report engaging in aggressive and risky driving and getting in auto accidents. Those who played these games less often reported driving more cautiously, the researchers said.

The researchers then studied 68 men and found those who played even one racing game took more risks afterward in traffic situations on a computer simulator than those who played another type of game.

Then the researchers had 83 men play either a racing game or another type of game, and found that those who played the racing game reported more thoughts and feelings associated with risk-taking than the others.

"Risk-acceptance is one of the most prominent and important factors in the discussion of the origin of accidents caused by young drivers," Joerg Kubitzki of the Allianz Center for Technology, who conducted the study along with researchers at Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians University, said by e-mail.

The researchers cited previous research involving the "shooter" genre of games, in which the player shoots at adversaries, that found an increase in aggression-related thoughts and actions among people who played these games. But they said little had been known about the influence driving games might have on actual driving behavior of players.

"The question of age restrictions, legally or voluntary, should be discussed not only for "shooter" games but also for this kind of games, which have an impact on traffic safety," Kubitzki said.

The study appeared in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, published by the American Psychological Association.

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