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How Music Affects Your Driving

A good playlist and the open road go hand in hand, but what if your favourite tunes are putting you at risk?

Music lovers rejoice

A 2013 study in the Netherlands found that music makes little difference to driving safely. In fact, experiments conducted by environment and traffic psychologist, Ayça Berfu Ünal, as part of the study found that the effects of music can even be positive as it can help drivers to concentrate on long, tedious journeys.

Whilst this is good news for drivers who love a beat, it's worth noting the study was conducted on 25 - 35 year olds, so it doesn’t provide a complete picture. Ünal commented: "I'd also be interested to see whether older motorists of seventy and above and young people learning to drive, cope with the distraction of the radio in the same way. I could imagine that music might be too distracting while you're just learning to drive."

An age thing

It seems Ünal might have been on to something. A report published last year in Accident Analysis & Prevention found that teenage drivers who played their own music had a fair few more traffic violations than their silent counterparts.

All 85 subjects tested made at least 3 mistakes in one or more of the six trips. But was it serious? Speeding, inappropriate lane use, following other cars to closely and weaving. Probably best to stick to silence until you've got the hang of things, then!

DJ turn it down

Whilst listening to your favourite band at a moderate volume might not cause any harm for most experienced drivers, a 2004 Canadian study found that it took people 20% longer to perform physical and mental tasks whilst listening to loud music. Translate this to driving and the results could be fatal.

The executive of the RAC Foundation, Edmund King commented on the study: "The findings of the Canadian study are bad news for decibel-loving drivers, as they prove that not only is loud music a nuisance to others, it could also be the cause of accidents on the roads."

Just beat it

And don't go thinking it's safe to blast a bit of Beethoven, the same study found that it was beats per minute that mattered, not the genre of music. So whether you're a metalcore fan, or opera is your jam, keep the beats down low. Why? They found that if the music surpassed 60 beats per minute listeners experienced an increased heart rate and their blood pressure skyrocketed. Not ideal when you're on the road.

The RAC Foundations own psychologist highlighted the importance of this: "Up-tempo music has been shown to cause drivers to have double the amount of accidents as those listening to slower music." So select your playlist with care. 


published: 03/06/2014 09:23:15

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