In a new study, researchers wanted to see how the skills of new drivers might be influenced by four factors: age, gender, sports participation, and video game experience.
The findings show that, among new male drivers, teens tend to perform better than those in their 20s. And while athletes tend to demonstrate better driving skills than non-athletes, no such difference was found between gamers and non-gamers.
The study involved 100 novice drivers, each with less than five hours of driving experience before their first driving lesson. The drivers participated in a two-hour lesson focused on car control and traffic maneuvers.
Students drove on the streets of Los Angeles, ranked by the 2017 INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard as having the worst traffic in the world. The group was evenly split by gender, and the students’ average age was 18.
Following the lesson, the instructor ranked each student’s skills on a four-point scale, in which one means the student requires far more instruction and practice before taking the state driving test and four indicates the instructor believes the student is prepared to pass the test.
The findings show that, among males, the older the student, the worse his driving skills score. Specifically, male teens scored 36 percent higher on driving skills than men in their 20s. The same pattern did not hold true for women.
When asked to rate their confidence in their own driving skills, female students on average were less confident than their male counterparts. However, men and women received the same average score from driving instructors.
In addition, among both men and women, a history of playing any kind of organized sport was linked to better driving skills. Male and female drivers who played sports scored 2.66 and 2.43, respectively, while men and women who had not played organized sports had average scores of 1.94 and 1.60.
This supports earlier studies showing that participating in organized sports improves spatial perception.
The researchers found no link between playing video games and driving abilities. The researchers were surprised at this finding since previous studies have shown that playing action video games improves spatial cognition.
To obtain a driver’s license in the U.S., individuals under age 18 must pay for a formal driver’s education class with a minimum of six hours of driving instruction on the road. In California, teens must also wait six months after earning a learner’s permit before they can take the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles driving test.
The authors propose that the DMV in California and other states consider expanding safety training to new drivers of all ages. If translated into policy, the findings could improve driver training, ultimately reducing traffic accidents and saving lives.
Next the researchers plan to study whether drivers’ gender, age and socioeconomic status (based on ZIP code) relate to whether they pass or fail their driving tests.