Study: Racing games can cause reckless driving

German University researchers find that racing gamers are more prone to take bigger risks in real-world traffic.

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In racing games, it's common for a player to risk wrecking a vehicle to win a race. Now, according to German researchers, those same players may display dangerous driving habits in real-world traffic. Their findings come less than a month after a British study came to a similar conclusion.

According to Reuters, a joint study by Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians University and the Allianz Center for Technology found that players of racing games were "more likely" to engage in risk-taking behavior when driving. No specific game titles or platforms were mentioned.

"Driving actions in these games often include competitive and reckless driving, speeding and crashing into other cars or pedestrians, or performing risky stunts with the vehicle," the report read. "Most actions in racing games imply a very high risk of having an accident or severe crash in a highly realistic virtual road traffic environment." The study appeared in the most recent issue of the American Psychological Association's Journal of Experimental Psychology.

The study's initial sample was of 198 men and women, though it went on to focus on a group of 68 men. Those in the latter group who said they had played a single racing game also said they engaged in more potentially dangerous behavior than those who did not. Researchers then had a group of 83 men play either a racing game or another type of game. Of that group, the racing game players "reported more thoughts and feelings associated with risk-taking than the others."

"Risk-acceptance is one of the most prominent and important factors in the discussion of the origin of accidents caused by young drivers," Joerg Kubitzki, an Allianz Center for Technology researcher, told Reuters. "The question of age restrictions, legally or voluntary, should be discussed...for these kind of games, which have an impact on traffic safety."

The racing game study is the second game-related study performed by the Allianz Center for Technology and Ludwig-Maximilians University. Previously, the two bodies researched the effect of shooting games, which they concluded led to more aggressive thoughts in subjects. Germany is currently debating restricting violent game sales following a November school shooting by a mentally unbalanced player of Counter-Strike, which spawned several copycat incidents.

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