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Does playing video games result in better driving skills?

A Teenage boy and new driver behind wheel of his car


Novice divers are generally teenagers and young adults. In Australia 45 per cent of all young Australian injury deaths are due to road traffic crashes and young drivers between the ages of 17 and 25 years represent one-quarter of all Australian deaths according to Young Driver Fact Base.

The recent Traffic Safety Facts from the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that young drivers aged 16–20 years are involved in the greatest rate of fatal, injury, and property-damaging accidents of any age group.

This age group lacks driving experience compared to older adults. But at this age their prefrontal cortex is still maturing too.

Unexpectedly, it was found that playing video games had no correlation to driving skills in both male and female drivers

The pre-frontal cortex is associated with making executive decisions and high-level cognitive functions. An immature pre-frontal cortex as is seen in young adults results in lack of executive functioning and is thought to lead to higher accident rates in this population.

There also seems to be clear gender differences with males having more fatal, injury and property-damaging accidents than females, which is especially true for the age ranges between 16 to 20 years.

The immaturity of the prefrontal cortex is a biological fact of that age group and cannot be changed, it becomes important to understand what influences the driving skills of young adults.

Researchers from the University of California wanted to understand the impact of gender, age, participation in organised sports and video gaming on driving skills.

This study was conducted in real-world, real-time conditions during the course of regular driving instruction in Los Angeles.

The participants for this study were selected based on having less than five hours driving experience (self-reported) previous to the driving lesson conducted in the study.

The 100 participants included 50 male and 50 females. They were instructed and evaluated by the same driving instructor.

Before beginning to drive in the first lesson, the participants were asked to rate their driving confidence level.

During the two-hour driving lesson which involved manoeuvring and controlling the car through commercial and residential road, the instructor evaluated their driving skills.

At the end of the study the participants were informed that a study was being conducted and were asked if they were willing to participate. If they agreed they were asked to sign and fill a consent form.

On signing the consent form, participants were asked two follow-up questions – if they participated or played organised sports and if they played video games.

The study found that females were less self-confident in their driving skills than males and yet there was no gender difference in driving skills at the end of the lesson.

Among the males, the older the student was the worse was his driving skill score. Male teenagers scored 36 percent higher on driving skills than males in their 20’s. This was not true for female drivers.

The study found that a majority of novice drivers were involved in organized athletic activities, either at the time of the study or in the past – 90% of females and 86% of males.

It was found that sport participation resulted in significantly higher driving skills scores of 2.66 and 2.43 respectively in both male and female drivers compared to novice drivers who reported no current or past athletic activity.

Previous studies have linked sport playing and participation to improved spatial perception.

Unexpectedly, it was found that playing video games had no correlation to driving skills in both male and female drivers. However, it was seen that less females played video games then males.

Another surprising finding of this study was that younger males have higher skills rating than older males even after non-athletic subjects were removed from the dataset. This was also seen in female drivers but was not statistically significant.

While further investigation is needed, the researchers suggest that the state driver’s license programs should consider ending age-based mandatory driver’s education for only teens and focus on expanding safety training to new drivers of all ages.

And playing video games has effect on driving skills but playing sports does.

Source: PLOS ONE


Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!