How does music affect the way we drive?
Have you ever been driving down the road, singing along to your favourite song, only to realise that you’ve missed your exit? Or have you ever found yourself tapping your foot to the beat of a song and driving a little too fast? If so, you’re not alone. Recent studies have shown that the music we listen to while driving can affect our reaction time, attention, and decision-making skills.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the different ways in which music can affect our driving experience. We’ll discuss the effects of different types of music, the effects of volume and lyrics, and share with you our top 3 electric cars offering a great in-car music listening experience.
In summary, the post will cover the following main points:
The effects of different types of music
The study found that listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations caused a 12-second slower lap time and a drop in speed to 35mph in a 50mph zone.
A recent study by Auto Express magazine and road safety charity IAM RoadSmart has found that listening to heavy-metal music while driving can cause motorists to lose their cool and become more reckless behind the wheel. The study, which was conducted using a high-tech racing rig at Base Performance Simulators, found that heavy-metal music caused a 14-second slower lap time and more jagged throttle movements compared to a control lap with no music.
Interestingly, classical music may not be much better for driving either, as it can encourage too much relaxation and slow drivers’ progress. The study found that listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations caused a 12-second slower lap time and a drop in speed to 35mph in a 50mph zone.
On the other hand, pop music was found to be the best genre for driving, as it creates the perfect atmosphere for smooth and controlled driving. The study found that listening to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” caused a 2-second slower lap time and was the smoothest in terms of speed consistency.
Steve Fowler, editor-in-chief of Auto Express said: “Much of the focus around distracted driving is on using a handheld mobile behind the wheel, and rightly so. But Auto Express’s joint research with IAM RoadSmart shows that as well as making a conscious decision to put their phone away when driving, motorists should also think carefully about what music they listen to.”
IAM RoadSmart head of technical policy, Tim added: “What is clear is that the ferocious thrash metal really reduced the ability of the driver to get around the track smoothly. That, and high-energy dance music, are designed to be felt as well as heard, and to be listened to at volume. It’s clear neither help when it comes to making exacting driving manoeuvres. I would certainly advise drivers to dial down the noise when making a manoeuvre – and save the thrash metal for later in the day, or night!”
So, the next time you hit the road, remember to think carefully about what music you’re listening to, as it could have a big impact on your driving. Pop music may be the way to go for a smooth and controlled drive.¹
How about volume?
If you’re a motorist who likes to blast your music while driving, it could well be time to turn it down! According to recent research, loud volumes of music can have a negative impact on your driving abilities. Not only can the tempo and energy of music influence your driving, but loud volumes have been found to decrease reaction times, increase heart rate, and even increase simulated driving speeds.
According to Moneybarn’s music simulator, playing music at a volume of 90 decibels can increase your heart rate to 80bpm and reaction time to 0.324 seconds, up from 75bpm and 0.282 seconds at a volume of 53 decibels.
Is listening to music while driving doing more harm than good?
“Distracted drivers and speeding are two of the biggest contributing factors in road collisions and deaths. While there are a multitude of reasons why these tragic events occur, our survey has shone a light on perhaps a less apparent reason as to why drivers may become distracted or exceed the speed limit.”
According to another survey by IAM RoadSmart, music could in fact be disrupting the harmony on Britain’s roads. The survey, which polled 1,004 motorists, found that 69% of drivers believe that having loud music on while driving can be distracting, and 36% of respondents said that listening to music while driving has an impact on how fast they drive. 62% of drivers said they turn off music when they are confused or stressed.
Despite these findings, nearly nine in ten (89%) of survey respondents said they listen to music while driving, indicating that potentially millions of UK motorists’ ability to drive is being negatively impacted by music.
These findings come in the wake of recent research from the Department for Transport, which revealed that distracted drivers were a contributing factor in 16,333 road incidents in 2021, with 3,700 of these distractions coming from inside the vehicle.
Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, commented: “Distracted drivers and speeding are two of the biggest contributing factors in road collisions and deaths. While there are a multitude of reasons why these tragic events occur, our survey has shone a light on perhaps a less apparent reason as to why drivers may become distracted or exceed the speed limit.” ²
So, what are the most ‘dangerous‘ radio stations and songs to listen to while driving?
Based on studies that show music with a BPM greater than 120 can result in faster driving speeds and more traffic violations and songs with high-energy can also impact driving safety, Moneybarn have investigated which radio stations are the most dangerous to listen to using a random selection of the songs they choose to play. Here was the outcome:
How about the most dangerous road trip classics?
It appeared that the most dangerous song in the list is American Idiot by Green Day, combining a very fast tempo with an energy score that tops the scale.
Using Spotify’s API and the Playlist Miner, Moneybarn found what the most common songs included in “road trip” playlists were. Then they analysed the tracks to see how many of these classics would be considered safe to drive to. Their analysis concluded that less than 1/3 of songs that made into their list were deemed safe to drive to (having an energy score less than 0.8 and an RPM of less than 120). In other words, that means 71% of the most popular driving songs could well have a negative influence on driving!
It appeared that the most dangerous song in the list is American Idiot by Green Day, combining a very fast tempo with an energy score that tops the scale. Click here to view an interactive graph of the most / least dangerous songs to listen to according to Moneybarn.
For all the music amateurs out there looking to record the next road trip classic…
On a more upbeat note, Moneybarn have also taken a look at what turns a normal song into road trip classic. To try and figure this out, they looked at the most common factors within the top 10 and top 100. Here’s what they found:
In-car streaming trends
Despite a temporary dip in in-car streaming during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that this trend is once again on the rise. It’s interesting to examine what exactly is driving this shift in how we listen to music in the car.
The rise of connected technology has had a significant impact on how people listen to music while driving. In the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of people who listen to online audio in their cars through their cell phones. In fact, from 2010 to 2019, the number of people who have listened to online audio in a car through a cell phone grew 8 times to 41%. Additionally, last year, about one in five drivers owned an in-dash information and entertainment system, which is over three times the number from the beginning of the decade.
Looking ahead, it’s expected that the trend of connected cars will continue to grow. By 2023, it’s estimated that 70% of all vehicles shipped worldwide will be connected.³
Road trip Spotify trends
According to Spotify, since May, Spotify Free listeners have been spending more time listening to in-car playlists on the platform, with a 121% increase in listening time for the “Road Trip Moment” playlist. With the introduction of “Your Daily Drive,” drivers now have a personalised playlist that combines music and news, making it perfect for any trip. Additionally, there has been a 35% increase in the number of road trip playlists created by Free listeners, with summer being a popular theme for these playlists. But it seems that the trend of road trips is not limited to the summer, with a 56% increase in Autumn-themed user-created playlists for road trips.⁴
It’s all about balance
It’s clear that music can be a great driving companion, but it’s important not to get carried away! Listening to some upbeat, fast-paced music can definitely make your drive more enjoyable, but it shouldn’t distract you from what’s on the road. Opting for calming and relaxing music can help reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue during the drive.
So, next time you’re hitting the road, don’t forget to curate your playlist and let the music enhance your journey, but always keep safety as your top priority. Happy and safe driving!
Our top 3 electric vehicles for in-car listening
The Audi e-tron is a great option if you’re a music fan, with an Audi sound system that offers a 6 channel amplifier, with 180 watt amplifying capacity and 10 loudspeakers including subwoofer!
Offering an upgraded Harmon Kardon sound system with the Plus pack, the Polestar 2 is also a great option for an enhanced music listening experience.
The Tesla Model 3 also offers a brilliant audio system as standard, with 8 speakers and limited immersive sound.