Hypothesis: Distracted driving from performing other tasks in the car is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents. Does distracted driving from texting similarly affect Mario Kart performance?
Methods: Nine subjects willing to play Mario Kart and text in exchange for taco night were recruited from a pool of young adults, children, and two parents at a LAN party. Demographic data included age, gaming experience, texting experience, and driving experience. To facilitate objective assessment all subjects used Toad with a standard car and no boosting was allowed. Moo Moo Meadows was chosen as the track and the subjects were told to think of the cows as pedestrians. Each user completed 3 laps without the distraction of devices and then 3 laps with 1 text per lap. Time from the 3 non-texting laps was compared with the time from the texting laps. Texts were questions that required a specific answer (e.g. What is your favorite movie? What did you eat for lunch?). Failure to respond to the text resulted in a 30 second time penalty. The study was not approved by any human subjects committee as that was not a requirement of the elementary school science fair.
Results: All 9 subjects completed the experiment. The average time without texting was 2 minutes 3 seconds (range 1 min 47 sec to 2 min 36 sec) and the average time with texting was 3 minutes 31 seconds (range 1 min 54 sec to 4 min 26 sec). During the texting laps the slower time was the result of the car going off track (with reduced speed on grass), collisions with cows, crashing into the fence, and inadvertently driving backwards. Only one driver (an adult) took his hand off the gas button and stopped his car to answer each text. Three methods of texting while driving were observed: attempting to keep the phone in the same line of sight as the television screen, holding the phone off to one side to text while glancing back and forth between the phone and the screen, and completely abandoning all view of the road to answer the texts (see figures A, B, and C respectively, above and below). Four participants hit cows during the no texting round and 7 participants collided with cows during the texting round. Change in performance from non-texting laps to texting laps correlated with texting, gaming, and driving experience. The most experienced texters and gamers had the least deterioration of performance. The yelling of the crowd, the general hurling of insults, and bragging of both drivers and observers did not significantly impact performance.
Conclusions: The risk of a crash (fence and cow), driving off the track, and driving backwards among Mario Kart drivers significantly increased with texting, thus texting resulting in significantly slower times. All participants were surprised at the effect of texting on their Mario Kart driving performance.