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Could the music you're listening to affect your driving?

20th November 2013

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The Daily Mail has reported that the UK has held on to its title of leading country in the world for road rage, and Sky News has also stated that nearly half of UK drivers have experienced road rage. But why are UK drivers so stressed behind the wheel? Insurer Chaucer Direct has looked into it.

The Statistics

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says, “Safe driving requires concentration, observation and anticipation as well as a responsible attitude to other road users. This is often easier said than done, as our driving can be affected by our mood, our reaction to the behaviour of other people and frustration caused by traffic delays.”

RoSPA continued, “In 2011, 122 people were killed, and almost 1,000 seriously injured, in accidents involving aggressive driving. 13 people were killed and over 500 seriously injured in accidents involving a driver “following too close.””

The Telegraph has reported that drivers aged 18 are twice as more likely to have an accident on the road than someone in their 30s and three times more likely as someone in their 40s. Someone aged 17-21 is four times more likely to receive a conviction for careless driving than the average motorist. It seems as though young people are prone to accidents – but could this be down to the music they are listening to?

David Ireland, Music Psychologist from the University of Leeds, highlights how music can have some level of control over our mood and concentration: “Many studies have explored how music is used in various situations in everyday life and one of many reasons that people can choose to listen to music is to influence their mood.

“The relationship between music and concentration is implicit in much of this research and there is a large body of studies that look at how music can influence cognitive performance on other tasks – this literature can seem quite conflicting at times – and basically the effects of music in these situations are largely influenced by the task, the type of music and the individual.

“Sometimes music can help to focus peoples’ attention on a task and motivate them; other times it can be a distraction.”

It is thought different music, such as the beat of the song and its genre, can have different effects on calmer and ultimately made them safer on the road.  The study also found that drivers who listen to loud and upbeat songs became happier but more reckless on the road.

The American and Dutch resources say, “The higher the energy, the more it competes for the attention resources available for driving.  This is particularly dangerous in high-demand driving situations, where the limit of attention may be reached.”

What should you be listening to?

So it seems the music we listen to while behind the wheel can unknowingly have a big impact on driving style and patience.

David also confirms that types of music can have different effects on concentration: “Fast and loud music can influence our arousal levels and this is one explanation which has been cited for when music can apparently appear to benefit certain types of task performance – although these improvements are often in relation to very specific types of cognitive task and the effects are short-lived.”

So what music should you be listening to make sure you drive as safely as possible?  An experiment lead by London Metropolitan University shows that songs with a beat that mimic your heart rate will keep your heart rate at a steady pace.

These include:

  • Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
  • I’m Yours – Jason Mraz
  • Cry Me A River – Justin Timberlake
  • Skinny Love  - Bon Iver

Image courtesy if nerichards on flickr.

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