Cars have become one of the most common places to listen to music. Either to get yourself a alone-driving-therapy, enjoy the ride with your friends or just commute to work, playing music is one of the very few things we still do while driving simultaneously.
But, does listening to music affect our driving behavior? And if so, how? Are there ways we can optimize our driving based on what we listen to? And could the type of music we listen to become regulated by law if the effect turns out to be significant?
A New Study answered these questions and looked into the association between in-vehicle music listening, the physiological and psychological response, and driving performances. The study included 20 participants with different personalities and looked into many indicators. These were the standard deviation of speed, lane crossing frequency, perceived mental workload, and the variability of heart rate.
The study shows that there is a significant effect of music presence and genre on driving performances. In particular, music with a tempo above 120 bpm came with a higher risk of car accidents compared to music with a slower tempo, and the control case without any music.
While driving with high tempo music, the drivers had more mental stimulation and had dangerous driving behaviors. These behaviors include more variation of speed, car overtaking and more lane changes and crossing. Additionally, drivers in this situation were more distracted during these tests and experienced more heart rate changes.
In the case of a high tempo scenario, the drivers finished the trip earlier on average than the other cases. Lane changing also happened twice as much when driving with high tempo music. Overtaking occurred for example 140 times in the 20 minutes simulation, compared to 70 in case of low tempo or no music.
In the case of high tempo music, the effects seem to be possibly dangerous. With this being said, let’s keep in mind that this study has been run on a sample of only 20 students from the same university. In addition, the music used was only rock music for the fast tempo scenarios.
Music can have one of two possible effects, either make us alert and awake or distracted. So the positive effect on our driving is not to be neglected. Lack of focus and the risk of falling asleep are too, very dangerous behaviors that music can help prevent. In any case, we should be paying more attention next time to our driving while jamming to our favorite Friday release.