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The Driving Soundtrack

Since the first car radio was introduced in 1930 by the Gavin Corporation (Motorola), music has done a lot to make driving a more pleasurable activity every single day.

However, it may also factor in distracted driving, which is linked to 9 fatalities and 1,000 injuries every day in the US. Opinions on whether the effect of music on driving is good or bad are divided.

A study at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel found that, for novice drivers, music can be a significant distraction. These researchers found that both the kind of music as well as the volume at which it is listened are significant.

When listening to their own choice of music loudly, 98% of the drivers tested exhibited some of the behaviors identified as unsafe, like speeding, tailgating, unsafe lane changes and passing, and one-handed driving. Out of those driving errors, one third required a verbal intervention on the part of the accompanying instructor, and 20% necessitated a physical intervention, like the instructor taking over steering and braking to avoid a collision.

To put this into perspective, at the same time, 92% of these novice drivers also made mistakes when driving with no music accompaniment. When listening to music specially designed by the researchers for the study, soft and played at a low volume, 20% fewer errors were recorded (http://www.aabgu.org/media-center/news-releases/teen-driver-music-preferences.html ).

Another study, at Monash University in Australia, found that listening to your iPod, MP3 player, or other portable music device was as distracting as texting and fiddling with the navigation system mid-drive.

Over 40% of those who own a portable music player admit to using it while driving. In the Monash study, the action found to have the most adverse effect on driving was scrolling using the touchscreen to select a song from a list. This navigation made the participants 111% more likely to drift into a different lane. It was also linked to problems maintaining a safe distance from the car in front, and the drivers’ gaze was diverted from the traffic 2.5 times longer.

On the other hand, drivers also exhibited some compensatory skills and activities, such as attending to the devices using a higher number of very short gazes, of less than 1 second in duration (http://monash.edu/news/show/ipod-use-while-driving-is-dangerously-distracting ).

In the UK, researchers looked at the results of a mini-study by the insurance site confused.com. Although we tend to experience fast-paced, upbeat music as good driving music, it has been found in this (admittedly limited) study to lead to faster, more distracted driving. We tend to adjust our driving to match the music, which means that music which mimics the resting heartbeat, 60-80 beats per minute, could be more likely to lead to defensive, focused driving.

 

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