Monday, August 10, 2020
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Favorite music turns teens into bad drivers

Unlike many music lovers, I have never liked music playing while I’m working, especially music that I like. The problem is, I listen to it too closely, and it distracts me from my work. Now research out of Israel suggests that playing music teenagers like to listen to might not be a good idea while they’re driving.


Teens listening to their preferred music while driving commit a greater number of errors and miscalculations, according to a new study from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers that will be published in the October issue of Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Male novice drivers in particular make more frequent and serious mistakes listening to their preferred music than their less aggressive, female counterparts, the researchers noted.

The study evaluated 85 young novice drivers accompanied by a researcher, who also served as a driving instructor. Each driver took six challenging 40-minute trips: two with music from their own playlists, two with background music designed to increase driver safety (easy listening, soft rock, light jazz), and two additional trips without any music.

The study was conducted by BGU Director of Music Science Research Warren Brodsky and researcher Zack Slor to assess distraction by measuring driver deficiencies (miscalculation, inaccuracy, aggressiveness, and violations) as well as decreased vehicle performance.

When the teen drivers listened to their preferred music, virtually all (98 percent) demonstrated an average of three deficient driving behaviors in at least one of the trips. Nearly a third of those (32 percent) required a a sudden verbal warning or command for action, and 20 percent needed an assisted steering or braking maneuver to prevent an imminent accident.

These errors included speeding, tailgating, careless lane switching, passing vehicles and one-handed driving.

Without any music, 92 percent made errors. However, when driving with an alternative music background, designed by Brodsky and Israeli composer Micha Kisner, deficient driving behaviors and mechanical events decreased by 20 percent.

“Most drivers worldwide prefer to listen to music in a car and those between ages 16 to 30 choose driving to pop, rock, dance, hip-hop and rap,” Brodsky explains. “Young drivers also tend to play this highly energetic, fast-paced music very loudly—approximately 120 to 130 decibels.

“Drivers in general are not aware that as they get drawn in by a song, they move from an extra-personal space involving driving tasks to a more personal space of active music listening.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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1 COMMENT

  1. “Just as a mighty army becomes useless if its soldiers are scattered helter-skelter, a great mind becomes ordinary the moment its energies are dispersed,” writes George Prochnik in today’s New York Times, available here.

    He was talking about great philosophers and slightly more disruptive noise, but for music lovers, a great piece of music can be disruptive, and great philosophers have no more tools at their disposal in the brain than people like you and me. Music you like tends to “scatter” your brain. Instead of focusing on just one subject (driving), it scatters, focusing on music, driving, music, driving, and so on.

Comments are closed.