Time to tweak the car playlist? Listening to singalong hits behind the wheel increases your chance of making errors by leaving you ‘mentally overloaded’, study warns

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  • Brunel University experts had ‘tripped’ 34 adults in a driving simulator
  • drivers listened to a variety of music, spoken songs or traffic noises
  • And the team measured each motorist’s emotional state and performance
  • They found that soft, non-lyrical music led to the best emotional states for driving

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A study warns that playing singalong hits behind the wheel can leave you ‘mentally overloaded’ and prone to errors. Or, as Rihanna might say: ‘Shut up and drive!’

Researchers led by Brunel University placed 34 adult volunteers in a driving simulator programmed to replicate urban roads and had them follow a set route.

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During each eight-minute simulation, drivers were faced with five incidents, including a pedestrian crossing a road, a red traffic light, and a truck trying to overtake.

The team monitored each driver under one of six sound conditions – including urban traffic noise, spoken songs and soft or loud music with or without lyrics.

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They found that – perhaps because they knew they were being watched – drivers’ speed and performance were mostly unaffected by the musical choices.

However, the researchers found that listening to music that was louder or had lyrics produced higher levels of affective (emotional) arousal than softer, non-lyrical pieces.

Previous studies have shown that loud, lyrical music can increase levels of hyperactivity and aggression, and may encourage overconfidence, particularly among young drivers.

‘Drivers should consider the use of soft, non-lyrical music to optimize their affective state during urban driving,’ the researchers concluded.

A study warns that playing singalong hits behind the wheel can leave you ‘mentally overloaded’ and prone to errors. Or, as Rihanna might say: ‘Shut up and drive!’ Pictured: A young woman sings to music in her car – and puts herself at risk (stock image)

driven to distraction

The study’s findings come as cars have increasingly elaborate entertainment systems, with access to assorted radio channels, podcasts and music streaming services.

Previous studies have found that 90 percent of motorists listen to music while driving, with many young men noting that the ‘fidelity and intensity of the sound’ was key to the experience.

According to the Transport Department, however, in-vehicle distractions were attributed to 2,563 accidents in 2019, including 64 fatalities and 614 serious road accidents.

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“The most important thing to do when listening to music while driving is to make sure you don’t get mentally overloaded,” said Brunel University paper author and psychologist Costas Karagorgis. Time.

‘Many internal and external factors can influence this, but one of the easiest to control is our choice of auditory stimulus, be it talk radio, podcasts or music.

‘Through reducing distractions, motorists are more able to focus on the road and therefore have a better chance of identifying potential hazards in a timely manner.

‘The main implication of this simulation study from a safety point of view is that drivers should consider the use of soft, non-lyrical music to optimize their mental state when driving in stressful urban environments.’

According to the researchers, concentration is of particular importance when driving in urban settings because of the tendency for more dense traffic, frequent junctions, roadwork, pedestrians and interweaving motorcyclists and cyclists.

City and suburban roads also increase the likelihood of ‘aggressive eye contact with other drivers,’ he said.

The team’s simulator experiments also showed that when drivers listened to loud music at about 75 decibels, they were on average 37 percent more agitated — roughly the noise made by a vacuum cleaner in operation — than softer tracks.

In addition, women were found to display a higher level of heart rate than men while driving while listening to music accompanied by song.

‘Music often plays an integral role in driving,’ Simon Hendricks, a spokesman for the insurance company Direct Line, which helped fund the research, told the Times.

Previous studies have shown that loud, lyrical music can increase hyperactivity and aggression levels, as well as encourage overconfidence among young drivers.  Image: Elton John (left) and James Corden (right) use fun boos and fun glasses for a 'Carpool Karaoke' session on 'The Late Late Show' - but could that behavior put them at risk?

Previous studies have noted that loud, lyrical music can increase hyperactivity and aggression levels, as well as encourage overconfidence, especially among young drivers. Image: Elton John (left) and James Corden (right) use fun boos and fun glasses for a ‘Carpool Karaoke’ session on ‘The Late Late Show’ – but could that behavior put them at risk?

‘So these findings are really interesting from a safety perspective, because they show that music behind the wheel can affect your level of focus.

‘There are so many potential risks in towns and cities, it makes sense to listen to music that keeps you calm but alert.’

The full findings of the study were published in the journal transportation research.

What does the law say about using a smartphone behind the wheel?

UK

In the UK, it is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone or similar device – such as a sat nav or camera – in most situations while driving a car or riding a motorcycle.

These rules also apply when stopping at a traffic light or standing in a queue in traffic.

Some laws target handheld devices only, while other laws affect both handheld and handsfree devices.

Motorists may use hand-held mobiles only in genuine emergencies, which require a 999/112 call and are not safe or impractical.

Drivers are obliged to be in complete control of their vehicles at all times.

If a police officer thinks a motorist is not fully in control because they are tuning their radio or using a sat-nav or phone in the cradle, they may also face prosecution. Is.

Learner drivers or drivers supervising riders are also banned from using hand-held devices even if they are in the passenger seat.

Motorists may use a hand-held device only if their car is safely parked in the proper location.

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