Driving Games – Do they affect real life driving?
Some bestow points for hitting as many objects as possible. Others exalt high rates of speed. And still others reward dangerous stunt driving. So the question begs: do driving games affect a person’s real life actions behind the wheel? Research to answer that question has been limited, but the consensus seems to be a resounding yes. Whether it is a positive or negative effect, however, depends on your point of view.
On the positive side, driving games have been shown to improve eye-hand coordination in the player, translating to better accuracy when correcting direction or maneuvering through and around difficult obstacles. They also appear to enhance reflexes, a helpful skill in real-world driving; children and pets dart out into the road, furniture-laden pickup trucks lose mattresses, and vehicles break down suddenly.
Virtual driving can also help to prepare a new driver for the huge multi-tasking job of controlling a vehicle. Calculating speed, distance, traffic before and behind you, slick pavement and following road signs all simultaneously are tasks the experienced driver has come to perform as second nature, but they can be overwhelming to the inexperienced one. And with a head start in the practical basics, games can help to ready the student driver to pass their driving test.
On the other hand, driving games have also been shown to invite a higher degree of risk-taking when the players move from video to steel and fiberglass. Some research has suggested that those who play driving games are more likely to drive recklessly, run stop lights, speed and experience and act on road rage than those who do not play the games. Aggressive, offensive driving similar to the sort conditioned and praised in the games has a different result in real life. When virtual road decisions are applied to asphalt, there are more tickets, more accidents and more injuries and, ultimately, higher insurance premiums.
With all this in mind, it is apparent driving games do affect real life driving. The key is to glean the positive skills of preparation, coordination and reaction time acquired through the games while leaving the competitiveness behind.