Playing games like GTA5 could bring down car insurance premiums

Research from American brain experts has indicated that playing video games makes people more able to make correct decisions quickly under time pressure - potentially turning them into superior drivers, soldiers or surgeons.

In the wake of the new black-box driver monitoring technology (QBE is the first Australian insurance provider to offer insurance based on monitored driving ability) that could lead some of Australia's highest-penalised drivers (young males and their parents) to cheaper insurance premiums.

According to cognitive researcher Daphne Bavelier, "It's not the case that the action game players are trigger-happy and less accurate: They are just as accurate and also faster." According to her research, "action game players make more correct decisions per unit time." Which means if you are a surgeon or have to respond rapidly on the road - for example breaking rapidly to avoid an accident, being good at video games could actually give you an edge.

Bavelier and her colleagues carried out a study in which a group of people who had not played video games previously were set to play either Call of Duty or the slow moving strategy game The Sims.

Afterwards, study participants were asked to perform tasks against the clock in which they had to look or listen, decide what was happening and answer a simple question - for instance, is an erratically-moving group of dots migrating left or right. The action-games group were able to give answers significantly faster than the strategists, with no loss of accuracy.

According to Bavelier and her colleagues, the process of playing fast-moving games trains the brain's natural processes of "probabilistic inference", the means whereby it can build a decision by rapidly and constantly collecting pieces of information.

"The brain is always computing probabilities," explains Bavelier. "As you drive, for instance, you may see a movement on your right, estimate whether you are on a collision course, and based on that probability make a binary decision: brake or don't brake."

Unfortunately, this data doesn't match up with finding from a Continental Tyres study that found players of driving video games are better at passing their drivers test than non-gaming drivers but were overconfident about their skills on the road.

The relatively small Continental Tyres study surveyed 1,000 gamers and 1,000 non-gamers between the ages of 17 and 39 about their driving habits. Although they tended to pass their drivers test in an average of two tries (while non gamers took three.) Video game drivers were more likely to crash, more likely to hit things while parking, or accidentally clip other cars, drive the wrong way down a one-way street and run a red light.

Continental Tyres safety expert Tim Bailey believes the downfall of driving game players is hubris. "Playing computer driving games means good concentration levels and improved reaction times, however, they can take more risks than non-gaming drivers, possibly due to the lack of real consequences in games."

Results grew worse the more time driving game players spent behind the virtual wheel, with those that played more than 8 hours a day three times more likely to get into an accident than those that play for less than an hour on average.

With the latest in car insurance technology, GTA5 and other driving game fans can now put their skills to the test to save themselves (and their parents) a lot of money on their massive insurance premiums. QBE is the first car insurer to offer to cut insurance premiums based on driving ability.

Find out more about QBE's black box solution here or find a easier way to cut your car insurance premium by comparing what's available in the market.

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