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Jim Lewis
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Study Indicates Music Impacts Teens’ Driving Safety

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If the results of a recent study are true, then parents might want to consider monitoring the kind of music their teens listen to when out for a drive. The study, published in Accident Analysis and Prevention, found that teenage drivers who listen to music from their own playlists commit a larger number of driving errors than other teens.

The study found that the problem of music negatively impacting driving safety was a special problem for young male drivers. The results showed that males made more frequent and more serious mistakes while listening to their preferred music than their female counterparts.

Researchers collected data by putting dozens of young driver through six laps around a challenging driving course, studying the impact of music on their driving abilities. During two of the trips the teens listened to music from their own playlists. On two other trips there was no music in the car while the final two trips involved music chosen by researchers to increase driver safety. This music included easy listening and light jazz.

The study found that when teen drivers listened to their own music 98 percent demonstrated an average of three deficient driving behaviors. These deficiencies included things like tailgating, careless lane changing and one-handed driving. When no music was played the deficiency rate fell to 92 percent. However, when teens were driving with the specially chosen music, error rates dropped substantially, down by 20 percent to only 80 percent demonstrating deficiency.

The researchers say that the problem is most teen drivers prefer listening to pop, rock, dance or hip-hop music, varieties of music that are loud and aggressive. The study showed that young drivers tend to prefer highly energetic, fast-paced music and often play this music very loudly, between 120 and 130 decibels. Teens fail to realize that they are often drawn into the songs and begin to display similarly aggressive driving behaviors.

Though no one thinks the study should cause parents to rip the radios out of their kids’ cars and replace them with Muzak, the fact is young drivers need to be aware of how even things like their choice in music can pull their attention off the road. Driving is a serious and potentially dangerous activity and it requires your complete focus. As a result, avoid engaging in any activities that will pull your attention away from the road in front of you, whether that’s texting, talking or listening to loud music.