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Weirdness: New Scientific Research Reveals The Horrifying Impact Of Texting On Mario Kart Drivers

Posted by Damien McFerran

Don't text and handle red shells, kids

As we all know, texting behind the wheel isn't a wise move — it has caused countless accidents on roads all over the world, and you should never, ever do it. Ever.

However, less is known about the effect texting has on road safety in Mario Kart. Thankfully, some pioneering scientists (in reality nine adults and children willing to play and text for tacos) have now discovered the truth: using your phone during a Mario Kart Wii race is just as harmful.

Here's what was done:

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.

Unsurprisingly, texting caused a massive drop-off in overall performance during the race:

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. 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.

That led the researchers to conclude that "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."

That's another mystery solved, thanks to science. Next week: the impact of trying to Skype and play Wii Sports Club: Tennis simultaneously.


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User Comments (29)



marck13 said:

Hehe.. was conducted better than expected according to the text. Nice read, thx!



Shiryu said:

<old man rant>These damn kids today! In 1992 we didn't have cell phones, just the track, the kart and the red shells. </old man rant>



Razzle said:

I remember doing these science projects in primary school, and it was always tough as a kid to come up with something to "research". This kid has chosen a subject matter important in the wider community (texting while driving), and made it fun for himself to experiment. Clever kid! I think Nintendo games attract the smartest kids, but I am biased.



Goginho said:

-.- was that really that necessary to research. I mean, isn't it logical - the consequences of texting (phone handling) and driving the same time, and that you shouldn't do it? lol



MadAdam81 said:

Clever research, I hope they get a good mark for it. hopefully it reminds people about the dangers of phones & other distractions while driving.



bouncer0304 said:

We can all laugh about it but i think it's a clever way to teach kids about safe driving. Instead of some boring road safety show (i've saw quite a few when i was younger and they wern't great), it's something kids enjoy and studies show kids learn better when it's something they enjoy. Kudos to the adult who set a good example by stopping and answering texts! The amount of nutters i see when i'm in my sister's car texting or speaking on their mobile is frightening. Maybe this kid is onto something after all!



Savino said:

I still have problems to believe that people actually do this while driving!



BenAV said:

I'd expect to be a lot slower playing Mario Kart while texting, but more for the fact that I actually need two hands to perform all the required actions in Mario Kart properly rather than from being distracted.



enderboy221 said:

You know, I've actually been able to text and play video games at the same time pretty well...



jestermx6 said:

@BenAV This was my first thought as well. Unless they changed the controls to only need one hand to drive (like real driving. assuming auto transmission of course. since drivers these days don't know what a clutch is).



Adam said:

The picture shows a Wii wheel in use, which would only require one hand, for the most part. The article says their only item is a mushroom, so they would want to use that when not texting.



ueI said:

I think this has been done before. Otherwise it's a good subject for study.



GamecubeMan said:

That's a cute little epxperiment. I for one believe it has significance in the effects of texting on the road as well. Also, Science Rules!!!!



yokokazuo said:

I never really texted while driving in mario kart, but I have learned from experience it's also not safe to text and hunt either. XD (monster Hunter)



idork99 said:

"As we all know, texting behind the wheel isn't a wise move — it has caused countless accidents on roads all over the world, and you should never, ever do it. Ever."

Totally agree! I'd also argue that, specifically, touch screen smartphones are more of the culprit than texting itself. If anyone can think back to 10 years ago, there were no touchscreen phones and the majority were flip phones with the traditional 12 button lay out with digits 0-9 plus * and #. Since there were physical buttons, many people got used to texting without even looking at their screens (utilizing predictive texting). With touchscreen being the majority UI on many phones, it is inevitable to do anything without looking at the screen.

This was a very insightful experiment and one that needs to be studied more. I'd go as far as hypothesizing that touchscreen UI is to blame, not the texting itself. Nonetheless, everyone should avoid multitasking when operating a motor vehicle.



Manaphy2007 said:

dafuq did i just read? well it proves that texting and driving is bad no matter if its reality or fictional of the gaming realm.



NightmareXIV said:

Next should be puzzle solving for people who play Nintendo (As many of their games are puzzle based.) compared to those who don't.




I did something like this for science last year in school. We had to come up with and perfrom a scientific experiment, so I tested whether talking on a mobile phone affects your driving in video games. I tested using Mario Kart Wii and had the driver/player answer similar questions to the ones asked in this experiment.

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