Driving under the influence (of music)

25 September 2020

 

Road trip time! You hit the road, hit play and – oh dear, it’s still mom’s all-brass classical playlist from when you took her to the doctor.

Pull over safely and legally, tap, tap, zoom. Now you have the perfect beats to watch the world fly by!

Music clearly affects mood, but does it affect driving?

Before we begin, the safety caveat. No matter what’s playing, listening to music through speakers or headphones has real risks on the road:

1. You hear other sounds less
This may be a sound from your car (a flat tyre, for example) or from outside your car (say, another car hooting to warn you of something).

2. Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road
You might glance at your screen to skip a song. Those two seconds looking away from the road could determine your life (or death). Consider using voice command or having a passenger control the playlist instead.

3. Hands on the wheel, mind elsewhere
Distraction is dangerous, even if it’s mental distraction. Newfoundland’s Memorial University found that your reaction time could diminish by 20% when you play music louder than a lawnmower (95 decibels).

But you’re picky about what you play when you drive, right? And you feel good when it’s your favourite song, right? So, it should all add up to better driving, right? Not necessarily.

A study from  London Metropolitan University looked into how music affects driving by exposing eight drivers to different playlists by genre, and had them drive 500 miles (804 kilometres). Their heart rates, driving skills, and behaviour were monitored.

For safe driving, they found, keep the tempo from 60-80 beats per minute. That’s the typical pace of the human heartbeat. Think Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Elton John, and Radiohead. Lucky you if they’re already starred on your streaming app!

Genre and gender are related, too.

“While hip-hop music made both more aggressive than the ‘safe driving’ songs,” I Drive Safely explains in another blog referencing the same study, “it had a far stronger effect upon women drivers, causing them to brake more heavily and accelerate faster than the males listening to the same songs. And where dance music pushed women to speed faster, heavy metal was the speed catalyst for males.”

Dangerous tunes include The Black Eyed Peas’ Hey Mama, Nickelback’s How You Remind Me, and Heartless by Kanye West.

In a 2013 study by Ben-Gurion University in Israel, the driving skills of 85 teens listening to playlists was monitored. A whopping 98% of them made mistakes listening to their preferred music, while only 77% made errors listening to safe-driving music comprised of easy listening, soft rock, and light jazz accompaniments.

Safe driving playlist

Based on London Metropolitan University’s study, Direct Auto put together a safe playlist for you, in no particular order:

And what was that about mom’s classical tastes? She might be surprised to learn that those who drove the most erratically were men and women who listened to classical music. Point that out next time she asks you to play Tchaikovsky’s cannons. Again.

Get covered with insurance that keeps you safe, no matter what you’re listening to. Get a quote from dotsure.co.za today.

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