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Gamers Crash More, Pass Tests Sooner

Virtual General Lee Jumping Police Cars in Game
Virtual General Lee Jumping Police Cars in Game

A new survey shows that people who play video games on a regular basis are more likely to pass their driving test the first time. However, before you go and buy your teen a new PlayStation, you should also know that people who play video games are also more likely to crash within the first year on the road.

While some people might be confused by these seemingly contradictory facts, gamers know better.

Video Games Increase Confidence

Turns out, a weekend, or week, or month (s), spent playing realistic car games like Gran Turismo might come in handy when it comes to taking a driving test. A recent survey of 1,994 people by a car insurance company, Privilege, found that 74% of gamers passed their driver’s license test the first go round.

As far as non-gamers go, they don’t pass at nearly as high as that rate. The men are more likely to pass their driving test the first time, at a rate of 52%. Women surveyed passed their first test at a rate of 42%. A quarter of female drivers take the test 3 or more times before obtaining their license.

17% of those who participated in the survey said that their confidence before the test was related to their abilities to handle a car on the digital road. 1 in 10 of the males surveyed said the games helped them, while only 2% of the women claimed the games were any help. Women claim to get their confidence from real life preparation more often than practice behind a controller.

Risky Driving from Gamers

Video gaming does have its drawbacks, however. While teens who gamed were better prepared for driving tests, 77% of the game playing teens surveyed were involved in a crash within the first year of getting their license. This is 3-4 times higher than the average first year crash rates for male (24%) female (18%) drivers. New drivers who are "gamers" are crashing considerably more often, and that's a worrisome trend.

One possible explanation: Confidence developed while gaming is a double-edged sword. While driving games helped these young drivers master the basics, they also gave these drivers a false sense of confidence. Over-confidence leads to risk-taking, and risk-taking often leads to a crash. After all, managing a car in real life takes a lot more than confidence and driving skill - experience and judgment are key to safe driving.

Another explanation? Teen gamers fail to fully grasp the real life consequences of risk-taking. Car crashes in video games never amount to more than a fleeting moment of guilt, so young gamers might not appreciate the risks they're actually taking. Of course, this explanation presumes that teens aren't capable of separating reality from the gaming world...and that seems a bit far-fetched.

Nonetheless, the results of the Privilege survey are not unique. There is considerable evidence to show that video games glorify risky driving, and that this glorification has an effect on teen drivers. A number of surveys have looked at whether gaming has an effect on driving abilities and decisions, and most of them offer comparable conclusions.

If we assume video games both help young drivers learn the basics and cause them to make bad choices, it's logical to wonder if there's a break-down elsewhere in the learning process. Perhaps teaching teens safe driving tips a little more adamantly could override this problem?

Or, could it be that the physiological effects of video games are simply too powerful? Is it asking too much of teen drivers to separate the virtual driving experience from the real one? Should parents take driving games away from teens learning to drive? Should video game manufacturers do more to create consequences for players who crash, such as locking them out of the game for a few minutes?

What do you think?

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