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These 10 Year Olds Are Studying the Impact of Texting on Mario Kart Performance

Everybody knows that driving while texting is a really, really bad idea. But what about driving a Mario Kart and texting?

Turn left to avoid the cows. (camknows)

Everybody knows that driving while texting is a really, really bad idea. But what about driving a Mario Kart and texting? That’s what these twin 10-year-old kids tried to find out for their science fair project.

Like most science fair projects, the idea came from their mom, Jennifer Gunter, a researcher herself. Bethany Brookeshire at Student Science explains:

Another parent might have been tempted to fall back on the old baking-soda volcano. Not Gunter. “My kids are really social,” she says. “So I thought, why not look at behavior?” And that’s when Gunter recalled a paper that came out a few weeks ago in the January 2 New England Journal of Medicine.

It showed that drivers who performed tasks while driving (like texting or making a phone call) faced an increased risk of crashing their cars. A video that accompanied the paper described the study and how its authors had tested their hypothesis.

Obviously, the ten year olds couldn’t test out texting and real driving, but they realized that they could test out texting and fake driving. They recruited “nine subjects willing to play Mario Kart and text in exchange for taco night” and got them driving. Then they had them try to text and complete laps around the Mario Kart course. Unsurprisingly, texting made it harder. And, being the researcher mom that she is, Gunter wrote up her kids’ results in a blog post formatted like a scientific paper. The conclusion?

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.

You can test this out yourself, in the name of science, if you choose. Or perhaps you’ll want to get in on the next Gunter family project: “We are thinking about looking at how other people in the ‘car’ affect performance in Grand Theft Auto,” Gunter told Brookeshire.

About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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