Laboratory Wars: Do Video Games Make Drivers Safer Or More Dangerous?

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Racing video games: we all play them, many of us love them. They give us an outlet for the days when we can't get to an actual track, and, for the better simulations, can even help us hone our edge in the off-season. But do they really make us better drivers, or do they make us more dangerous on real-life tarmac? Two studies go head-to-head on the issue.

The first, which we brought to you last September courtesy of the University of Rochester, says video games enhance reaction time and improve the likelihood that a gamer will make the right decision under pressure.

The University's researchers even applied the findings to driving on the road, saying, "As you drive, for instance, you may see a movement on your right, estimate whether you are on a collision course, and based on that probability make a binary decision: brake or don't brake," surmising that people exposed to fast-paced video games would be more likely to make the right decision.

But on the other side of the issue we have a new study released today by Continental Tire in the print edition of Metro. Contrary to the Rochester results, Continental finds that frequent players of titles like Gran Turismo and Grand Theft Auto are more likely to crash their real-life cars than those that don't.

"Gamers take more risks than non-gamers, possibly due to the lack of real consequences in the game," said Tim Bailey, Continental safety expert. The type of risks taken? Running red lights, road rage, and low-percentage passes.

What do you think? Is it possible that both are correct, but focusing on different aspects of the issue? Or are games the devil, corrupting the sanity and skill of our youth, turning them into Nick Hogans, minus the yellow Supra? Let us know in the comments below.

[University of Rochester, The Sixth Axis]

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