April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. To educate others on the woes of distracted driving, all month long we’ll be highlighting the “seven deadly sins of distracted driving” – seven things that can have a profoundly dangerous effect on your driving ability.
Of all the activities one may engage in while driving, listening is music is perhaps the most accepted. Some studies say that 90% of people driving in vehicles listen to some form of music in their car – and that may be an underestimation.
We can’t blame commuters either – studies have shown that listening to music while in high-traffic situations can ease the stress, boredom, and anxiety that comes with being stuck in congested roads. Additionally, background noise such as radio music has been shown, in some cases, to improve focus and concentration, which can be beneficial when you’re driving.
However, for all its benefits, listening to music while driving can also be extremely distracting – especially if you embrace its decibel-topping, eardrum-blasting wrath.
The Wrath of Loud, Aggressive Music
Listening to music in your car can be good, even beneficial, to your driving, but listening to loud music in your car can be incredibly distracting. A study by scientists at Newfoundland’s Memorial University found that reaction time can slow as much as 20% when someone is listening to loud music. That benchmark was at 95 decibels, which is about as loud as a power lawnmower.
That might seem really loud, but consider that the middle volume of a standard music player (such as your phone) is about 94 dB. That’s not too loud at all – and car radio volume can frequently hit 100 dB, especially on the freeway. Teen drivers are especially susceptible – 93% of novice drivers play loud music when they’re behind the wheel.
Your Personal Mixtape is Distracting
Above all, it seems like music in your car is most distracting when it’s your favorite tunes. At this point, drivers tend to focus more on the music than the road, leading to a number of dangerous situations.
This was highlighted in a 2013 study at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, where teen drivers were tested on their driving skills while listening to various music playlists. Of the 85 subjects, 98% made errors when listening to their own music – and 17 actually required instructor intervention to prevent a collision. By comparison, 77% made errors when listening to safe-driving music, which consisted of easy listening, soft rock, and light jazz accompaniments.
While we can’t say never listen to music you enjoy, it’s a good idea to keep in mind the potential for distraction when you’re jamming out to your mixtape on the road.
Our Verdict: Better Safe Than Sorry
You may look at this data and think it doesn’t affect you, but our personal stance is better safe than sorry. Regardless of the actual music, choosing your music via radio dials or music player is a proven physical distraction – you’re literally taking your hands (and eyes) off the wheel.
If you’re going to listen to some sweet tunes, plan your playlists ahead of time and listen to it all at a reasonable volume. When it comes to music on the road, “too much of a good thing” definitely applies.