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Can Your Choice of Music Affect Driving Behavior?

Getting behind the wheel and operating a motor vehicle is something most Americans do on a regular basis. Naturally, their mood when they get behind the wheel is not always the same, and it’s reasonable to suspect that this could have an impact on driving behavior. After all, being distracted by something on your mind can command your cognitive attention and, just as when a driver engages in distractions such as texting or cell phone use, can lead to inattention blindness that prevents one from being fully aware of their surroundings.

If cognitive distractions have been shown to impact a driver’s ability on the road, is it possible that common forms of distractions in our vehicles, such as music, can also affect the way we drive? According to several studies, yes! In fact, not only can music create distractions behind the wheel, researchers suggest that the type of music a motorist listens to can alter mood and performance while driving.

Studies on music and driving behavior stem from the fact that mood can certainly influence our everyday behavior. By exploring how and why we listen to music, its effect on mood, and how it relates to driving performance, researchers are unearthing new evidence to suggest that listing to music while driving may not be as insignificant as most people think. Here are a few important findings on the subject:

  • Music and mood – A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) focused on the fact that music is a popular form of mood adjustment. When we are in certain moods, we may turn to music to reflect and reinforce them, or in some cases to alter them. Other studies have shown clear connections to how music can affect our mood, which leads to questions over how music’s ability to create mood changeability comes into play when it occurs behind the wheel.
  • Distraction – Music is certainly a form of distraction, and one Israeli study has found that listening to music you enjoy and are familiar with can increase distraction. Drivers in the study took several road trips, including trips on which they listened to pre-selected music, music from their own playlist, and no music at all. Researchers found that 98% of drivers listening to their own music made serious mistakes when behind the wheel, including tailgating, speeding, and driving with one hand. This is compared to 92% of drivers who made similar errors without music. Interestingly enough, researchers found that listening to the pre-selected music (a mood-stable collection of light jazz, easy listening, and soft rock) actually decreased driver mistakes by 20%.
  • Volume – Researchers from Newfoundland’s Memorial University conducted a study in which they found that regardless of the type of music playing, drivers were slower to react when the volume was increased. At 95 decibels, the equivalent volume of a lawnmower, drivers had a 20% increase in the amount of time needed to make a driving decision.
  • Searching for music – A distracted driving study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that the greatest risks posed by music listening in the car are associated with the physical and mental act of selecting songs. Drivers who use mp3 players or select digital music from their console are more likely to take their hands off the wheel and their eyes of the road. As with using a handheld cellphone, this creates visual, manual, and cognitive distractions that substantially increases their crash risks.

Studies on the relationship between music, psychological state, and driving are still relatively new, which is why there are some interesting and at times conflicting results. For example, many researchers have noted that while loud, familiar, and fast or aggressive music can negatively impact driving, easy listening and softer music played at a reasonable volume might actually help drivers concentrate when behind the wheel.

Although science continues to explore this phenomenon, the reality is that distraction behind the wheel is one of the most dangerous things a driver can engage in. Whether they are selecting music, jamming out, or relaxing, drivers can be affected by music and the type of music they listen to. As such, they may commit driving errors, negligence, and traffic violations that put others on the roadway at risk of being harmed.

At Hartman - Imbriale LLP, our Woodstock car accident lawyers have fought on behalf of many car wreck victims throughout the years. We know that distraction in any form is dangerous, and that regardless of how a driver is distracted, they still have the legal obligation of operating their motor vehicle safely. When they fail to uphold this obligation and cause accidents and injuries as a result, they can be held liable for the damages victims suffer, including victims’ medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost financial income, among others.

If you wish to discuss a recent car accident, your right to monetary compensation, and how our legal team can help, do not hesitate to reach out and speak personally with a member of Hartman - Imbriale LLP. Our attorneys are passionate about providing the close-working relationships, communication, and experienced representation victims need to successfully navigate the personal injury claim process and fight for maximum compensation. Since 1990, our client-centered approach and ability to leverage decades of combined experience have allowed us to secure numerous successful results for car wreck victims, including millions of dollars in compensation.

Contact us 24/7 for a FREE consultation.

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