Despite causing distractions, young adults say driving without music is ‘impossible’

BEER-SHEVA, Israel — Before checking their mirrors and fastening the seatbelt, a new study finds most young adults are making sure their music playlists are just right before driving. Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) say nearly every young driver they studied believes driving without music playing is an “impossible” task.

Despite being unable to separate themselves from their tunes, study authors say the wrong songs can actually make driving more challenging and young drivers more dangerous.

“To young drivers 18-29, music in the car isn’t just entertainment, it’s part of their autosphere whether they’re alone or not,” says Prof. Warren Brodsky, director of the BGU Music Science Lab, in a university release. “They are so used to constant stimulation and absorbing great amounts of information throughout the day, that they don’t question how the type of tunes they play might affect concentration, induce aggressive behavior, or cause them to miscalculate risky situations.”​

Researchers examined the driving habits of 140 young adults during their study. Each driver answered a 67-item questionnaire, delving into how their music influences them while behind the wheel.

Ironically, 80 percent of the group say it’s not just “difficult,” but sometimes “impossible” to concentrate on road conditions or traffic problems without their music on. Young adults are so hooked on their tunes, most of the respondents added they’ll stay in the car to finish whatever song is playing even after reaching their destination.

Young drivers feel the need for speed

Nearly every respondent (97%) told researchers they prefer listening to several short songs when taking a long trip. Nearly two in three (65%) add they play “fast-paced” music on their commute to work.

When going on a road trip or driving during the holidays, three in four young adults tune to something more “liberating” that they usually dance to. Ninety percent switch to some “upbeat” dance music when driving to a party.

“These young drivers believe that more stimulus actually helps their driving abilities,” Brodsky explains. “This could become more of an issue in the future, when it becomes critical to disengage from music and assume control in an autonomous vehicle.”

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), distracted driving kills nine people and injures over 1,000 every day across the United States. Experts say taking your eye off the road for even two seconds doubles your chances of being in an auto accident.

The study appears in the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychomusicology: Music, Mind and Brain.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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