Parents who want to raise their kids to be safety conscious drivers have a right to wonder whether or not test driving games online actually do more harm than good. On the one hand, virtual driving games might serve to teach new drivers some very basic rules of driving in a fun, harmless setting. However, the fact that a simulated course for driving safety uses a computer keyboard as a control could form a negative association in their minds. With little consequence other than a halted program, new drivers will learn what constitutes poor driving for the game, but it does not necessarily translate into real life.
By learning to maneuver a computer-simulated car on an online test driving game, new drivers can learn in a way familiar to them what it entails to be a good defensive driver. These programs immediately freeze, and the screen turns red when the player makes a wrong move. In this way, wrong moves learn to be interpreted as dangerous in real life. The rules of the road, too, are taught to the player who must make the correct move before continuing. These games are not entirely different from the old fashioned driving simulators from Driver’s Ed classes. The biggest difference is that they can be played at home on your personal computer. As a means of teaching students how to drive, online test driving games provide a solid theoretical foundation that is more fun and interactive than reading through a handbook.
On the other side of the coin, online test driving games may do more harm than good by unintentionally equating driving with a game. It takes a rare teenager to resist the temptation of purposely making a false move. In the game’s defense, the program immediately freezes and gives the player no enjoyment from seeing the results of their wrong action. In that sense it is not a game. Although it intends to teach student drivers how to perform correct driving maneuvers, the games are completely out of touch with reality. In real life parallel parking is not done with the four arrow keys on a keyboard. At least old fashioned simulators sat the new driver down in front of a steering wheel. The task was truly hands on. Online test driving games attempt to teach children about driving safety and proper technique, but they are too much of a game to ever do it effectively. Additionally, the “fun” of being a simulated aggressive driver might impact their ability to be safe when they are actually driving.
By themselves, these games will not teach new drivers how to drive safely. They are good for a theoretical base of knowledge, but in the end there is no substitute for hands-on experience where the consequences are very real. New drivers cannot be expected to become adept drivers if the simulators they learn on are operated with computer controls. There is certainly a place for these types of games, but they are not good for teaching practical car safety. They are an adequate substitute for teaching new drivers about road rules, but drivers must actually be faced with car safety issues if they are to truly learn what it means to be a good driver.