Simulated driving may affect teens’ behaviors behind the wheel

Studies show that simulated racing games do not improve most driving skills, and may even result in behaviors that raise the risk of a crash.

As parents in New Jersey may know, practice is a factor in mastering almost any skill, and safe driving behaviors are no exception. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, experience is the best way to become a safe driver. Parents can enhance their teens' required training hours through active instruction from the passenger seat, as well as making sure to include night and inclement weather practice.

Some studies have evaluated the effects that simulated racing games have had on teenage drivers, and whether hours spent with a controller in hand can contribute toward the experience necessary for better driving behaviors.

Observation skills

One study suggests that whether a person has experience behind the wheel may affect how well he or she performs in a driver simulation game, but the converse may not be true, according to the Association for Psychological Science.

Researchers wanted to know whether those who played racing video games were more observant of the dangers around them when they were driving. The study compared 40 gamers, half of whom had been driving for at least five years. The other half did not yet have their licenses.

By tracking the eye movements of the participants, the scientists discovered that those who did not know how to drive a real vehicle did not perform as well on the game. Those with driver's licenses scanned the game environment for hazards just as they would behind the wheel, demonstrating that their driving behaviors carried over into the game.

Reaction times

The split-second decisions that are often a part of racing games have been shown to translate well into actual driving conditions, according to Geico.com. Many gamers reacted correctly on the road, and up to 25 percent faster, too, the study reported, leading researchers to believe that the focus required to do well in the simulated conditions is likely to have a direct and positive influence.

Risky behaviors

Other studies have linked simulated driving games to negative responses. For example, researchers discovered that aggressive driving is a common effect when young drivers get behind the wheel right after playing a game, and several hours of gaming increased the risk of a crash. Limiting screen time and taking a break before getting behind the wheel may be helpful in overcoming these hazards, experts suggest .

Regardless of their level of experience, teens are just as liable in a crash as any other driver. A person who is injured as a result of a careless, reckless or aggressive driver may be eligible for compensation that covers the cost of the physical, financial and emotional damages related to the accident. A personal injury attorney may be able to ensure that victims receive the maximum amount to which they are entitled by law.