Is Listening to Music While Driving Distracting?

Music can have various effects on the mind and body. Distractions from music while driving are often a concern of researchers looking to study driver safety. Take a look at some various viewpoints from both perspectives to see the answer to whether or not your music is distracting while driving.

Yes: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada

Brian H. Dalton and David G. Behm of Memorial University of Newfoundland examined the distractions music causes in their study, “Effects of noise and music on human and task performance: A systematic review.” Their study identified that while drivers felt less stressed when they had music behind the wheel overall, it depended on the type of music the driver was listening to. Rock music, for example, was more likely to cause incidents of reckless driving and an increased threat of accidents. The same study recognized that people who listened to music louder than 90 decibels were more likely to be distracted.

No: University of Groningen, The Netherlands

The article “Listening to music while driving has very little effect on driving performance, study suggests” summarizes the results of an environment and traffic psychologist’s experiment that researched drivers age 25 to 35 listening to music and talk shows while driving in an urban environment. The study showed that those who listened to music tend to focus on what’s going on around them better than those who did not. The same study said that it’s actually more dangerous for people to make phone calls or listen to the news because it would require more concentration. People who listened to music were still able to parallel park and leave enough distance between them and the car in front of them. When placed into situations with traffic, this study found that music kept drivers calm and focused.

Yes: Ben-Gurion University, Israel

The study “Background music as a risk factor for distraction among young-novice drivers” analyzed how young drivers were distracted by songs they know. After driving with unfamiliar and familiar styles of music, drivers made three more mistakes when they knew a song that was playing. Most of these mistakes involved drivers missing turns or passengers warning the drivers about upcoming turns.

Yes: University of Wisconsin – Madison, USA

Lee et al. examines the dangers of distracted driving in their study “Scrolling and driving: how an MP3 player and its aftermarket controller affect driving performance and visual behavior.” This study examines the dangers of finding playlists and songs on car entertainment systems that connect with your phone. After examining over 50 different drivers, their research shows that drivers glanced at their dashboard more than looking at the road. Other control groups, who either tried to change radio stations or listen to whatever was playing, were not nearly as distracted as those searching through playlists.

Overall: Yes, Music Can Distract You While Driving

While each study looked at a different aspect and offered different reasoning, most agree that music can be distracting while you drive. There are mixed verdicts on whether the volume of a song can be distracting. There were also mixed verdicts on whether or not certain genres lead to more distracted driving. Multiple studies agree that songs you know can shift your focus to the music, and can cause drivers to miss turns.

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