We all know that driving while gabbing on a cell phone (or, even worse, texting) is dangerous. What you might not realize is that merely listening to music—and your choice of music—can also result in unsafe driving. The CDC reports that nearly one in five injury-involved crashes is caused by distracted drivers. And listening to your favorite music can be distracting.
One study, for example, found that young drivers who listened to their favorite tunes (such as pop, hip-hop or rap) committed more traffic violations, drove more aggressively and made more miscalculations than those choosing “easy listening” tracks.
But no matter what your age, your music choices can affect your driving style, says Warren Brodsky, PhD, a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel, and the author of Driving with Music. Possible dangers…
• High-volume music can disrupt vestibulo-ocular reflexes and slow reaction times.
• Fast-paced music. In driving simulations, people who listened to fast-paced music committed more driving violations (such as disregarding red lights) than those who listened to slower-paced tunes.
• Favorite music. Actively listening to a favorite song uses cognitive space and can take your mind off the road.
Beware of “car”-aoke. If you’re drumming on the steering wheel and passionately singing along, you’re not driving safely.
So what’s the safest music in the car? Low-volume easy listening or light jazz is probably your best bet!