You get into your car, start the engine and switch the radio on for some nice music. Your favourite song comes on and you can’t help but sing along with it. It’s fun, isn’t it?
Music, in general, is a unique tool that affects your mood and takes you into different emotional shifts. When Bruno Mars sings an upbeat song, you feel ecstatic and energetic or even dance to it while digging into every line of the song. But when The Carpenters take over your playlist, you just want to cry your heart out because Yesterday Once More or Rainy Days and Mondays make you feel a bit more emotional.
No wonder lots of drivers won’t go out on the road unless they’ve got their chosen tunes to listen to. It is a piece of entertainment that sets up a brighter mood inside the vehicle and makes a drive less boring. Apparently, listening to music has become a driving routine that most motorists can’t just ignore. But is it really safe?
Can listening to music make you a dangerous driver?
The effects of music while driving
Music has a long list of genres and it’s not necessarily bad to binge-listen to all your favourite songs in your playlist. However, either consciously or subconsciously, a particular type of tune can alter your mood and your attitude in driving.
Professor Warren Brodsky of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the director of music psychology in the Department of Arts, stated that listening to the wrong kind of music can be “deadly” while driving. He suggested that drivers should be mindful of choosing what they play inside the vehicle. Otherwise, it will disrupt the driver’s focus or cause aggressive behaviour.
The professor added that the ideal music for drivers to listen to should contain only a “moderate level of emotional energy”; in other words, something that inspires you but does not distract you. Songs that make you sing or dance along to the beat are not recommended. It may sound not so bad but, evidently, it could direct your focus apart from driving. Moreover, playlists that manifest “distracting thoughts, memories and emotions” should be avoided, so ditch the CDs that bring back memories of your last break-up.
On the other hand, the right choice of music can bring a positive effect. Aside from preventing boredom, suitable driving music can soothe your mood, make you feel more relaxed, keep you awake or alert, and help you focus on your driving. However, if you really do feel like falling asleep, it is always best to pull over and take a nap rather than simply turning up the stereo. A cup of coffee or energy drink will also do better than a tune.
Choose the right music
They say you are what you listen to, and the right musical choice will be different for every individual. However, there are some types of music that are either more or less beneficial to your driving.
You might love listening to unpleasant rhythms and lyrics at ear-piecing levels, but it can affect your attitude in driving, making you more aggressive and careless. On the other hand, classical or mellow music may help to keep you calm and relaxed – even if it’s not the sort of thing you’d normally listen to.
So the kind of songs you are listening to does matter; it can be disruptive or it can be beneficial. But how would you know the ideal music to listen to while driving? Take a look at these tips, and see which songs in your collection may fit the bill:
- Songs that are too upbeat or too dragging can distract you from driving.
- Volume can also affect your mood. Loud volumes may affect your focus, while if it’s so quiet that you have to keep turning it up, that’s also distracting.
- Classical music, mellow songs and acoustics tend to keep the brain in the right zone for driving, being familiar but not too distracting.
- Avoid songs that can trigger distracting thoughts and emotions. Explicit rap or tunes with personal emotional meanings may not be a good thing to listen to behind the wheel.
Does music make you an unsafe driver? It depends on what you listen to. There’s no definitive answer. We all love music, and each and every one of us has our own favourites. However, the wrong choice of music can contribute to a driving environment which is not ideal. It doesn’t directly impair your driving skills, but anything which alters your mood could lead to bad driving behaviour. Anything which distracts you from driving can negatively impact on reaction times, which could be disastrous.
This article does not suggest you replace your whole playlist with classical songs from Beethoven or Mozart. Whether it is classical, pop or R&B, you should make a conscious effort to choose music that can maintain your concentration while driving. Hopefully these tips can help you make that choice!