Teens who play video games that glorify reckless driving may bring some of their virtual dangerous habits to road, a new study shows.
Researchers surveyed more than 5,000 U.S. teenagers over four years in four waves of telephone interviews that occurred when the teens were, on average, between the ages of 14 and 18. Half of the teens reported in the first interview that they were allowed to play mature-rated games — among them, Grand Theft Auto III (58 percent), Spiderman II (32 percent) and Manhunt (12 percent).
By the third interview, when most teens were 16, a quarter of them answered "yes" when asked if they engaged in any unsafe driving habits, the researchers said. By the final interview, 90 percent said they engaged in at least one unsafe driving habit, including speeding (78 percent), tailgating (26 percent), weaving in and out of traffic (26 percent), and running red lights (20 percent).
The study found that playing mature-rated, risk-glorifying games was associated with an increase in self-reported risky driving, as well as sensation seeking and rebelliousness — qualities measured by the teens' rating of themselves with regard to such statements as "I like to do dangerous things" and "I get in trouble at school." And higher rankings in thrill seeking and rebelliousness were directly linked to risky driving habits, car accidents and being stopped by police, according to a statement from the American Psychological Association (APA), which published the study in its journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.