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.

Figure A
Figure A

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.

MarioKart

Figure C
Figure C
Figure B
Figure B

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23 Comments

  1. Dr. Gunter et al:

    Congratulations on this profoundly important new study on distracted Mario Kart driving. And I see the research team has your poster presentation already prepared for upcoming conferences. Well done!

    Q: Will you be submitting this for peer review?

    1. Both the CMAJ and BMJ publish “Holiday Editions” (manuscripts due in Sept or so)….This would be a great study to submit! Cheers!

  2. This is such an awesome message and the perfect age to teach it! I struggle getting my hubby to not text and drive! I’m going to show him this study. Well done!!

  3. I love this science fair project! What a great way to show our kids that science can be applied to any area they’re interested in (including video games and texting)!

  4. The study methodology is generally sound. However, this reviewer is concerned by the number of correlations reported. With N = 9, statistical significance is difficult to achieve. Some of the reported results may be spurious. Repeated trials to improve the sample size are indicated.

    [ / reviewer mode ]

    And that is quite a bit cooler than the projects I did when I was in elementary school.

  5. giving this a zero because video games give no sense of motion if you aren’t looking at them.

    1. Why would a sense of motion be required to play Mario Kart? This study explicitly drew no conclusions about regular driving, merely about Mario Kart performance.

  6. who cares about doing it while playing video games. I’m better at texting while actually driving than playing video games anyway

  7. I don’t know if this is really worthy of winning an Ig Nobel per se, but I think it ought to be at least submitted to the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

  8. Today, while I was at work, my sister stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a 30 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone! acbedfbdcbed

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