Effects of Music on Driving

Many drivers have a different technique whilst driving and different experiences, some listen to music and some do not. Some people are cautious drivers and others reckless, but does music influence the type of driver you are? Those who do listen to music have a variety of genres to choose from, but does the type of music they listen to effect their driving? The following research was conducted in an attempt to answer these questions.

This experimental design simulated a real life driving experience in various conditions and participants were randomly allocated. Genres played whilst driving in the simulation were pop, rock, jazz, blues, funk and country. Results found that music tempo does have an effect on driving. Tempo consistently affected the drivers speed and their perceived speed estimate, participants often under-estimated their speed during the course. A relationship between fast music and risky driving behaviour was found and drivers listening to this music were more likely to carry out virtual traffic violations. These violations included disregard for red lights, lane crossings and collisions. Another relationship was found between volume of music and automotive control, suggesting the louder the music the more our automotive control decreases. This study may be lacking ecological validity due to the virtual experience however the statistics for real life accidents in relation to music is unknown and difficult to judge. It also mentions how police investigators, drivers and traffic researchers themselves have not thought of the associations between music and driving (Brodsky, 2001).

We cannot conclude that driving performance is affected by music, however there are clear correlations and evidence to suggest it does. Other factors to be considered are personality types such as the ‘Big Five’ demonstrated by Costa & McCrae, 1992 (cited in Chamorro-Premuzic, 2007). An individual with a conscientiousness personality may naturally be a more cautious driver. The personality types of those in Brodsky’s experiment were unknown which could have been a crucial factor to explain driving performance.

Brodsky concluded the type of genre does not affect a persons driving, instead the study proposed it was the speed, tempo and volume. This should encourage new strategies to be implemented aimed at learner drivers to warn them of the risks of driving in relation to music. At this moment in time drivers are not given any cautions about music volume, the only reason they are asked to not play music so loud is due to it being a nuisance to others in the area. Research like this can be seen in real life environments such as in gyms or clubs, the music in these places is fast and loud which suggests music does have an effect on our behaviour when mixed with other factors.

Brodsky, W. (2001). The effects of music tempo on simulated driving performance and vehicular control. Science Direct, Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and behaviour, 4, (219-241), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1369-8478(01)00025-0

Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2007). Personality and Individual Differences. Wiley Blackwell.


8 thoughts on “Effects of Music on Driving

  1. I think it has more to do with the person’s personality and ability to multi-task. In some ways, music or talk radio keeps me from being completely distracted by my thoughts. I think the music would have much less of an effect on my husband than it would on me. I did notice that I tended to go faster when I listened to car race commentary—so I changed the channel.

  2. This is a really interesting study, and its a shame it is just a correlation, as if such cause and effect could be proved then precautions could be made to ensure higher road safety, therefore having considerably useful results.
    However, not only is this study only a correlation, and therefore unable to establish a cause and effect, but it also used a very small un-generalisable sample of just 28 students, which is an unfair representative of the population, in particular drivers – as the students would have most likely have not been driving long and therefore lack experience. The lack of ecological validity is also a issue decreasing the validity of the research.
    As you suggest, it would be hard to improve ecological validity, as its most unethical to manipulate music levels to cause car crashes, however more research should be undertaken in this region as (as stated by the BBC) 2002 3,431 people were killed on Britain’s roads, and 35,976 were seriously injured. If loud music could be linked to this, then regulations or at least advice could be issued to prevent some of these accidents.

  3. I believe that listening to music whilst driving does decrease driving performance. From personal experience, I think its worse when other factors are also evident such as driving your friends somewhere and listening to music at the same time as this reduces my concentration further.
    But its not just listening to music that can affect driving performance. Other factors have to be considered such as physically changing the radio station/cd track/song on an iPod etc. Subsequently, research conducted by Drexel University in Philadelphia consisted of a sample of 17 participants driving a simulated car whilst changing songs on an iPod. It was found that interaction with an iPod while driving degrades driver performance. Drivers were less able to maintain a central lane position while selecting media on the iPod.
    Hopefully such research will encourage implications on drivers listening to music in order to reduce future car accidents.



  4. Knoble19, you make a good point where you said ‘driving with your friends’. If people behave differently around different people then we could question whether we drive differently around others to. For example would you drive differently with your parents in a car compared to when your with your friends. However this study focused on those when alone did, or did not listen to music on a variety of scales. The study you have also mentioned would clearly decrease driving performance, studies carried out like that in Philadelphia are the reasons for why it is illegal to drive and be on your phone now, almost anything considered a distraction such as smoking or eating is not taken lightly. However smoking has been banned not just as a distraction, but also due to second hand smoke and fire hazards. There may also be positive affects of listening to music whilst driving, people taking long journeys, such as lorry drivers or just trips may need that motivation to stay awake and to prevent boredom.

  5. Music that effects driving, music does effect driving as well as many other aspect of life and this is not really a new concept. As stated by Godoy and Leman (2010) Plato and Aristotle discussed the idea that music exited emotion states, and influenced a persons well being and behaviours. It also affects our concentration which plays a big part in how an individual my or may not drive. It is suggested that specific music will trigger specific affects.

    Soldiers in Iraq have stated that certain types of music help them prepare for combat, the roles of gangsta rap, heavy metal may be more complex than first thought. Soldiers reported feeling pumped and inner feelings or readiness after listen the music. Genres of music like rap and metal have primary elements that involve empowerment and the thematic content of death, war and violence (Pieslak, 2009).

    Music does affect the human psyche, emotions and concentration and this intern will affect every aspect of our everyday life. Whether we are plugged into our ipod at the gym or listening to music to help us study or listening to music driving in our car music plays an important roles in many peoples lives. As stated by xxxx () I love music and I love science- why would I want mix the two ??

  6. I think that there is a link between music and driving performance and this creates a substantial effect. Many drivers listen to music and it can become a source of distraction, especially for young drivers following pop culture and the social norm of loud music. Studies have shown that listening to music slows down reaction times. I agree with the Brodsky study that fast music may make people drive over the speed limit. This means that potentially more accidents could happen. By studying this effect road safety could be improved. Music for example, rock music makes our heart beat faster and could possibly get the adrenaline flowing and make you lose the full ability to use your senses. A survey of 1780 British drivers reveal that approximately two-thirds listen to music or radio music whilst driving and music is reported to be less of a distraction than conversation.

  7. I agree with the fact that music is clearly a distraction during driving but as you state the evidence gathered proves only a correlation, not a cause-effect relationship. I believe this is largely to do with the fact there are so many other factors that could also be possible distractions to a driver that it would be extremely difficult to definitively support the claim that an accident caused by bad driving was purely instigated by the distraction of the driver listening to music. This said, I do believe music tempo and volume can influence behaviour.

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