RESEARCH REPORT: How Song Selection Can Be a Driving Distraction 1

Listening to Certain Types of Music Can Increase Driver Errors

By Ann Lukits, Wall Street Journal

Fumbling with the buttons to find a good song while driving has been linked to increased risk of crashes, but is listening to that song risky? It depends on the music, says a report to be published in the October issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention. The study found teenage drivers who played their own music had significantly more traffic violations compared with background music designed by the researchers to minimize driving distractions, or no music.

Researchers at Ben-GurionUniversity in Israel recruited 85 drivers about 18 years old; just over half were male. The subjects were each assigned to drive six challenging road trips that were about 40 minutes long, accompanied by an experienced driving instructor. Music was played on four trips, two with selections from the drivers’ playlists, mostly fast-paced vocals, and two with background music, which was a blend of easy listening, soft rock and light jazz in instrumental and vocal arrangements designed to increase driver safety. No music was played on two trips. Subjects rated their mood after each trip and in-car data recorders analyzed driver behavior and errors.

All 85 subjects committed at least three errors in one or more of the six trips; 27 received a verbal warning and 17 required steering or braking by an instructor to prevent an accident. When the music was their own, 98% made errors; without the music, 92% made errors; and while listening to the safe-driving music, 77% made errors. Speeding, following too closely, inappropriate lane use, one-handed driving and weaving were the common violations.

The male subjects were more aggressive drivers and made more serious errors than female subjects. The teens played their own music at a very loud volume but significantly decreased the sound level when listening to the safe-driving music, researchers said. Mood ratings were highest on trips with driver-preferred music.

Caveat: The participants were unfamiliar with the vehicles and instructors and their performance likely represents their most lawful driving behavior, researchers said.

Source: Background music as a risk factor for distraction among young-novice drivers

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