Teenagers who play M-rated, risk-glorifying video games such as Grand Theft Auto III and Manhunt (banned in Australia) may be more likely to become reckless drivers who experience increased car accidents, police stops and willingness to drink and drive.
“Most parents would probably be disturbed to learn that we observed that this type of game play was more strongly associated with teen drivers being pulled over by the police than their parenting practices,” said study lead author Jay G. Hull, PhD, of Dartmouth College. “With motor vehicle accidents the number cause of adolescent deaths, popular games that increase reckless driving may constitute even more of a public health issue than the widely touted association of video games and aggression.”
Five thousand teenagers were surveyed four times over four years for the study. Half of them reported being allowed to play M-rated video games. Games such as Grand Theft Auto III, Manhunt and Spiderman II were associated with increases in sensation seeking, rebelliousness and self-reported risky driving, the study said.
Between the second and third interviews, teens who said they had been pulled over by the police increased from 11 percent to 21 percent; those who said they had a car accident went from 8 percent to 14 percent. In the third interview, when the teens were about 16 years old, 25 percent said “yes” when asked if they engaged in any unsafe driving habits. In the final interview, 90 percent said “yes” to at least one of the same risky driving habits.
Risky driving habits included speeding, tailgating, failure to yield, weaving in and out of traffic, running red lights, ignoring stop signs, crossing a double line, speeding through yellow lights and not using a seatbelt.
The researchers determined the teens’ levels of sensation seeking and rebelliousness by asking them to rate themselves on a four-point scale following questions such as “I like to do dangerous things” and “I get in trouble at school.” The study controlled for variables such as gender, age, race, parent income and education and parenting styles described as warm and responsive or demanding.