Are Teens Risking Lives By Playing Grand Theft Auto?

Auto accidents, police stops, drinking and driving problems are higher in teens who play risky, mature rated video games, such as Grand Theft Auto. This conclusion was reached at the end of a four year study of 5,000 teenagers in the US by the American Psychological Association.

"With motor vehicle accidents the No. 1 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," warned Jay G. Hull, PhD, of Dartmouth College. When the long term study began, most participants were 14 years old and remained in the study until they were 18.

Teens who participated in the auto chases of Grand theft Auto III made up 58 percent of the study group whose parents allowed them to play mature rated games. Spiderman II drew 32 percent and 12 percent had played Manhunt. The study consisted of analysis of answers to questions posed in yearly interviews with the 5,000 video game enthusiasts. The teens’ responses indicated they were sensation seeking, rebellious, and risk-taking drivers.

The first two traits were directly linked to bad driving, including speeding, tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, speeding through yellow and even red lights, ignoring stop signs, and not wearing seat belts. The researchers, according to Dr. Hull, thought these undesirable traits could extend into other areas of risk taking lifestyles, such as smoking and drinking.

The study included an equal amount of males and females who were white, black, Hispanic and Asian. You can see all the statistics in the APA journal of Popular Media Culture.

Studies of this nature, although carried out with controls and well-intentioned researchers, like any statistic must be taken as a guideline, since human behavior is made of so many variables. It could be said that these children were already predisposed to risk and sensationalism and chose the games because of that. Yet, that choice of games could be an indicator of undesirable traits that lead to dangerous situations. Whatever the cause/effect, as they say, ?Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire.? The information cannot be ignored and should be considered when raising a child or when choosing which game you want to expose yourself to.