Distracted Driving: Could Your Commute’s Soundtrack Kill You?

Distracted Driving
It may be time to trade in that Galantis and Jack Ü soundtrack for something a little more mellow on your daily commute. According to an Israeli music psychologist and author, the music you listen to while driving could have deadly repercussions. In an interview with Haaretz, Ben-Gurion University’s director of music psychology Warren Brodsky discussed his new book (‘Driving with Music: Cognitive-Behavioral Implications‘) and the impact a driver’s musical choices can have on road safety.

“The car is the only place in the world you can die just because you’re listening to the wrong kind of music,” Brodsky told Haaretz, before clarifying that it isn’t necessarily the genre or BPM of the music you choose, but the emotional experience that music stirs within the driver. “Whether it’s Beethoven, Basie or Bieber is irrelevant. Ideally drivers should choose tunes that do not trigger distracting thoughts, memories, emotions, or hand drumming along to the beat while driving.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s distracted.gov website, 3,154 people were killed and 424,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted drivers in 2013. How many of those were caused by somebody listening to, say, dubstep vs chillwave? Hard to tell. Previous studies have shown that a driver’s music selection doesn’t negatively impact “driving performance in high demand situations,” but Haaretz notes that Brodsky has taken those studies into account and is sticking to his guns:

“Critiquing [the previous study] in his book, Brodsky shows that much depends on what you switch to. And, he writes: “…the optimal music for drivers to listen to are pieces with a moderate level of emotional energy (as intense emotional qualities of either positive or negative valence causes unwanted maladaptive driver behaviors)” – meaning, choose the wrong song and you can just make matters worse. That is good to know.”

This meshes with a a 2013 Ben-Gurion study in which teenage drivers who selected driving music from their personal playlists were shown to have more traffic violations than they did driving with more mellow control sounds like easy listening and jazz.

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