While doing research on distracted driving, I came across some articles about the dangers—or lack thereof—of singing while driving.
Honestly, listening to music or singing while driving wasn’t something I’d ever really thought about. Sure, I tend to turn off/down my music when I’m in dangerous road conditions or trying to navigate a tricky situation. I make sure not to play my music so loudly that I can’t hear sirens. But I’d never considered whether the music itself was dangerous.
Yet an Australian study found that people singing along to music are more likely to vary their speed and less likely to notice peripheral distractions. There was even a negative effect when people were just listening, not singing along.
However a British study showed that people who listen to music in the car might actually be safer. They’re less likely to fall asleep, they do a better job staying in their lane, and they tend to feel calmer. The study did find, though, that people listening to music took longer to respond to hazards in front of them.
The type of music might make a difference. “Hardcore” music tended to make people tense up, while pop and acoustic had the best results.
Given that somewhat contradictory information, what’s the bottom line? Does music make you a better driver or a more dangerous one? Probably neither.
I couldn’t find the actual Australian and British studies (just articles about them), but I did find a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that showed…listening to the radio had almost no impact on safety. It did create a negligible increase in cognitive distraction, but significantly less than the distraction caused by talking to a passenger or talking on the phone.
The good news is you can probably keep listening to your music. Just use common sense and listen responsibly.