It shouldn’t be a surprise, but maybe it is. A new Israeli study of teen drivers found that music choices affected driving ability, and that soft rock calmed driving styles while fast-paced styles like rap compromised safe driving ability.
How much was that driving ability compromised? As the Wall Street Journal reports, of 85 drivers surveyed, all age 18 and new to the road, some 98 percent made driving errors when they chose their own music.
Prior research showed fumbling with buttons to select music is associated with increased crash risk. The new study, although small, suggests yet another element of distracted driving in teens.
Teen driving study
Teens were recruited by researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. The specifics of the study included the test subjects driving a series of six challenging routes for a period of 40 minutes each. Teens were accompanied by an experienced driving instructor.
Music was played on four of the six trips, with teens choosing the music playlist on two of the trips, and background music was played on another two trips. No music was played on two trips.
The teen music choice, according to the study, was mostly fast-paced vocals. As for the background music, that was a blend of soft rock, easy listening and light jazz in instrumental and vocal arrangements “that was designed to increase driver safety.”
Following each trip, the teen drivers rated their mood. In-car data recorders analyzed the teens’ driving behavior and errors committed during each trip.
All of the 85 test subjects made driving errors – at least three in one or more of the six trips.
- 27 got a verbal warning from the instructor
- 17 required steering or braking by the instructor to avoid an accident
- 98 percent made errors when they chose their own music
- 92 percent made errors without music
- 77 percent made errors while listening to the “safe driving music”
Driving errors most common included speeding, inappropriate lane use, following too closely, one-handed driving and weaving.
Researchers found that male teen drivers were more aggressive than female counterparts in the study. Males also committed more serious errors.
As for music volume, teens played it the loudest for their own playlists and lowest for the easy-listening music. Mood was also reported highest during trips with driver-selected music.
Researchers did point out that the teens did not know the driving instructors and were unfamiliar with the vehicles. Study authors also said that the teens’ driving performance likely represents their “most lawful” driving behavior.
The study will be published in the October issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention.