Can loud music affect your driving?
It is surely not hard to imagine that loud music affects our behavior. Music that prevents us from hearing sirens or other road traffic, is clearly a hazard.
When reviewing research on the cognitive effects of music, some studies show that it’s a distraction and affects reaction times for the following reasons:
The processing takes up some of your cognitive resources. Whilst driving a number of things must be processed: your driving, the environment around you, are there pedestrians? You also have to process the noise or music. So there is a battle going on in your head, and the more you have to process, the less quickly you’re going to react.
The same results were achieved for pan flute music and rock ’n’ roll. If it was really loud the reaction time was adversely affected. Interesting was the male/female difference. For guys it didn’t matter whether it was loud or soft, if they listened to hard rock, they lost focus and drove more poorly. For women, it didn’t affect their driving unless the hard rock was loud.
No one can listen to really loud music and perform optimally.
Can fast music affect your driving?
Speed kills. But not only the speed at which people drive: the speed of the music they are listening to also has a hand in their fate. An Israeli researcher says drivers who listen to fast music in their cars may have more than twice as many accidents as those listening to slower tracks.
While studies have shown a link between loud music and dangerous driving, Warren Brodsky at Ben-Gurion University wondered if tempo had any effect on driver behaviour. He then conducted research on the issue. As the tempo of music was increased, drivers took more risks, such as jumping red lights and consequently had more accidents.
He also monitored the drivers’ heart rate and found that it fluctuated less when they were listening to music of any kind compared with no music at all. This lack of variation, he suggests, shows that music is distracting the drivers and making them less alert.
Brodsky says drivers should be aware of the tempo effect and choose slower pieces of music.
But not too loud!