Are video games giving teens the wrong impression of driving?

[categories Driving]

Half of all drivers (47 per cent) believe that driving games on consoles and mobile devices are giving youngsters the wrong impression of driving. The study, by pre-17 driving experts Young Driver, asked 1,000 drivers what impact they felt computer games, films and TV programs have on teens when it comes to getting behind the wheel. Forty per cent said they felt video games made bad driving look cool, with one third (33 per cent) saying they also felt TV programs and films had the same effect.

The survey revealed that more than one in three drivers (39 per cent) felt films and TV shows rarely show the consequences of driving dangerously or too fast, with 29 per cent saying they thought teens’ attitudes to driving were negatively influenced by films such as the Fast and the Furious.

Young Driver found that that the figure rose with drivers aged 18-24, who would have most recently passed their test, where 58 per cent felt motoring on screens contributed to teens thinking driving was much easier than it really is.

When parents were asked if they believed that driving video games actually gave youngsters an opportunity to drive recklessly in a safe way, only one in 10 (11 per cent) agreed it was a good way of getting it ‘out of their system’.

Even more experienced drivers are not immune – with one in 10 (nine per cent) admitting seeing a cool car stunt on the screen makes you think how great it would be to give it a try – rising to 22 per cent of 18-24s.

Teen expert Nicola Morgan, is an award-winning author and international speaker, specializing in writing for and about adolescent development, performance and well-being, including the book ‘Blame My Brain’. She has been working with Young Driver to help them better understand teenage minds. She explains: “Teenage brains are still developing and that continues well into the twenties. The last area to develop is the prefrontal cortex, which is the brain’s ‘control center’, necessary for tasks such as self-control, decision-making, risk analysis and saying no. So, at 17 years old, teens do not generally have a fully developed control center to help them make good decisions and control their emotional urges, including risk-taking. If they have a risk-taking mindset, they may put thrill before safety; and even if they don’t mean to, they may be more driven by excitement than reason.”

Sue Waterfield is head of marketing at Young Driver, which is the UK’s largest provider of pre-17 driving lessons, offering tuition to 10-17 year olds. She said: “It’s concerning if new drivers are being influenced by what they seen on screens to believe reckless driving is cool and without consequence, given their brains may not see risk in the same way an older driver would. That’s why it’s so important that young people are taught from an early age what a responsibility driving is, and how to do it safely. If they come to it for the first time aged 17, and they’ve been immersed in footage of sports cars doing impossible stunts, of course it’s going to skew their concept of driving. If, from as young as 10, they’re able to have a go at driving a car in a safe and controlled environment, and are aware of what is involved, it gives them that much needed perspective ahead of taking to the road.”

Motoring expert Quentin Willson added: “We don’t know the effects that games like GTA and Need for Speed have on teen attitudes to road safety simply because the research hasn’t been done yet. But at Young Driver we see every day that if you catch pre-teen kids who haven’t yet been corroded by the glorification of bad driving in films, on TV and through gaming, they’re much more receptive to road safety messages.”

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