Playing computer racing games may make drivers take more risks on the roads, a study involving 1,000 people suggests.
Virtual racing may spill across into real life, the researchers warn
Virtual racing seems to lead to aggressive driving and a propensity for risk taking, particularly among men, say the German authors.
Men who had been playing the games were subsequently more likely to race and overtake other road drivers, yet had one second slower reaction times.
The research is appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.
The findings suggest players are more likely to have road accidents too, say the authors, particularly as they tend to be young men - a group that insurance companies already brand as high risk.
"Those in the field of road traffic safety should bear in mind the possibility that racing games indeed make road traffic less safe," the researchers warned.
Indeed, a recent survey by driving school BSM also revealed young drivers are more likely to go faster on the roads after playing video driving games.
And 27% of motorists aged under 24 admitted more risk-taking on the road after a gaming session, the poll of 1,000 found.
Together, the findings strongly suggest that playing racing games leads to riskier driving.
Robin Cummin, BSM's road safety consultant, said: "It ties in with what we found.
"Now we have to get the message across to young people about the dangers of using these games and how it can spill across into real life situations."
He suggested games could carry a pop-up warning that would flash on the screen before a player starts a game, alerting them to the potential risks.
For the latest work, Dr Peter Fischer of Ludwig-Maximilians University, along with colleagues from the Allianz Center for Technology, recruited 198 volunteer drivers to take part in a study of three parts.
Firstly, the drivers were asked to rate their road safety and report how many accidents they had as well as how often they played virtual racing games.
Next, they were asked to play computer games - some involving racing cars and others involving neutral sports such as football.
Finally, some were asked to drive in critical traffic situations on a computer simulator.