Nothing sets the mood for a drive like the right music. For some, a good podcast is an ideal way to get through a boring drive and stay awake. No matter what your audio of choice is, the odds are good that you don’t drive around in a silent vehicle. But how does this choice affect your driving—and does it put you at greater risk of an accident?
Learn more about how audio distractions can affect your driving and your risk of being involved in an accident. If you’ve been hurt in a crash caused by a distracted driver, call Olmstead & Olmstead at 703-361-1555.
Music’s Impact on Your Driving Performance
If you’ve ever gotten caught up in a good song while driving, you already know that music can definitely affect how you drive. Who hasn’t gotten caught up in an impromptu concert, only to arrive home and realize that you don’t remember any of the drive? In some cases, music can actually have a positive effect on your driving. It can help you focus and stay awake, and some research indicates that it can minimize the effects of traffic, other people’s aggressive driving, and other road stressors.
Much depends on what type of music you listen to. Some research has found that thrash metal has a negative effect on driving skills. One study found that thrash music, as well as high-energy dance music,to drive smoothly and precisely. While this particular study didn’t look at other types of music, you may be able to apply this to other beat-heavy types of music with a high BPM, such as rap or some types of hip-hop.
The volume of your music can also affect your driving skills. Research indicates that loud music decreases your reaction time, ramps up your heart rate, and even makes you drive faster. Consider how that might affect you on a busy highway or traffic-congested road. You’re driving along, music blaring, with no idea of how fast you’re actually going. When the car in front of you comes to an abrupt stop, you do not have enough time to stop before hitting them. This is completely avoidable, and unfortunately, many people really don’t know that music can have that effect on them.
Other Types of Audio Distractions
It’s not just music that can change your driving. Phone calls, podcasts, and other forms of audio entertainment can also distract you. These are classified as cognitive distractions, which means they take up your attention and limit your ability to concentrate on the road. Many states have enacted laws that forbid the use of cell phones unless you are using a hands-free device.
However,that this may not be as helpful as you think. In fact, current research says that hands-free calls are just as mentally distracting as phone calls that require you to hold the phone. Even when your hands are free to drive, hands-free calls do not make calls any less cognitively distracting.
Podcasts can also require an enormous amount of concentration. This depends largely on the type of podcast you listen to and how much mental energy it demands. For example, podcasts that involve in-depth storytelling or deep, intellectual topics require a lot of concentration—there’s no way around it. On the other hand, a lighter conversation-style podcast may not have such a profound impact on your driving.
Protecting Yourself and Reducing Risks
While it may seem obvious, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to limit the use of distracting audio entertainment. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out your favorite music and podcasts entirely. It just means choosing music that keeps you calm and focused, rather than music that gets you pumped up and overstimulated. It means choosing podcasts that engage your mind without requiring every bit of concentration you have.
You can also watch out for distracted drivers. They’re often easy to see because they drift in and out of their lane, speed up and slow down randomly, and may have near-misses at intersections.
Discuss Your Legal Options with Olmstead & Olmstead