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Video Gamers: Where the Rubber Meets the Road?

It first came to me on SyFy Blaster: That Jerk who raged at you on the road today was probably a gamer. Fox News trumpeted,  “Study Says Video Gamers Make Dangerous Drivers.” MSNBC came up with, “No, Driving Games do not Make you Better Drivers.” I was intrigued, and so I ferreted out the original press release at Continental Tires.  Here are just a few highlights:

Drivers who DO  PLAY/DON’T PLAY

% stopped by police  — 22/13
% ever made a claim for an accident–30/15
% run a red light in last 12mnths — 1/14
% take risks (accelerate too quickly, overtake) — 44/21
% suffer road rage  — 45/22
% who speed —  25 /13
% scare others with their driving-26/11

This study only refers to Driving Video Gamers.  It might be easy to miss that with blazing headlines.

Does this UK based information actually have much applicability in the US?  I hope to have a “Part II” to this article, as I sent an email to the listed PR folks at the global Continental Tire site asking for the study criteria and some other clarifications.  Meanwhile, let’s just take a look at what’s actually there and what’s absent:

Item 1:   Where’s the criteria?  Where’s the link to the study? The “study” is self reporting.  It’s like a survey on Family Feud or those pesky consumer product surveys where you name which detergents you like best.

Item 2:  The study is conducted in the U.K. among 17-39 year olds. According to theaveragegamer.com, the average age of UK gamers is 23+.   The average game player age in the US is 35 years old.  Ahem.

Roughly 27% of gamers in the UK are women.  40% of women in the US are gamers.   25% of the US population over the age of 50 play video games.

Item 3:  How much of the sample was 17-25 year olds? This is a significant missing fact as that age group is arguably the highest risk for auto insurers in the US: 

This is because statistics show that men under the age of 25 have more accidents and moving violations than women. Not only do they tend to spend more time driving, but they drive in a more reckless fashion, as a rule. Additionally, they may select sports cars and other vehicles deemed “high-risk”, raising their premiums…  Regardless of gender, new drivers under the age of 18 face the highest insurance rates. For both men and women, rates drop when they reach the age of 18. For women, they drop again at 21, while men have to wait until they are 25 to enjoy lower car insurance rates.  (from carinsurance.com)

Item 4:   Chicken or egg? Is playing a video game actually causing bad driving?   No.  Before video games, there was drag racing, street rodding, etc.  In my opinion, Individuals who did these activities in some locations are now  playing driving games instead, and yes, they are still experimenting with their cars when they get in them and yes, it can and will always be dangerous.

Continental Tires Tim Bailey (so called Safety Expert)  would have us believe this apparently junk science study, and apparently a lot of us have bought into it and the news outlets love it, of course.

When I was a child, comic books, rock and roll music and television was going to bring about the end of the world, then Dungeons and Dragons was going to send us all to hell after it turned us all into killers.   Music videos were going to corrupt us all and kill music and imagination.  Then video games were going to bring about the end of the world, send us all to hell after it turned us into killers, corrupt us all and kill imagination.   Now, we can add that playing video games makes you a bad driver.  Here is your  auto insurance questionnaire:  Do you play video games?  If yes, please check all that apply: __ Grand Theft Auto   __Gran Torino     __Cars    I sincerely hope that the insurance industry opts out of this madness.

But here’s where they rubber meets the road. You don’t have to buy Continental Tires the next time you need tires. Buy something else.  Buy anything else.  But don’t buy into Continental Tires junk science.  If I hear from the PR Department at Continental Tires global site, I’ll update you with what I hear in Part II.