Can the music teens listen to while driving affect their ability to drive safely? Research from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel indicates that music can play a role in safe driving. Researchers Warren Brodsky, BGU director of Music Science Research, and Zack Slor found that listening to preferred music increased the number of errors teens made while driving.

The study evaluated 85 novice teen drivers who were accompanied by a researcher/driving instructor. Each teen went on six challenging, 40-minute driving excursions. During two of the trips, the teens supplied their own driving music, two of the trips had no music, and the remaining two trips featured a soundtrack designed to increase safe driving. The safe driving playlist included soft rock, easy listening, and light jazz selections and was supplied by the researchers.

The researchers measured the amount of mistakes the teens made, including miscalculations, inaccuracies, aggressiveness, and violations, among other vehicle performance factors like speeding, careless lane switching, and one-handed driving. When the teens listened to their music of choice, 98% of them demonstrated three deficient driving behaviors on average in at least one trip. Of those deficient maneuvers, 32% were severe enough to require a sudden verbal warning or command for action from the driving instructor. A further 20% called for assistance in steering or breaking to avoid imminent accident. In the trips with no music, 92% of teens made errors. In contrast, on the drives with the safe driving playlist, deficient driving behaviors and mechanical events fell by 20%.

Part of the problem with teens listening to their preferred music may stem from the fact that they tend to listen to upbeat music like pop, dance, and hip-hop at high volumes of around 120 to 130 decibels.

Brodsky commented that “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.”

This research will be published in October in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

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