Ever had that moment while driving that you’ve heard a car zoom by and heard the loud drum and bass thudding through the closed windows?

A new study conducted out by the South China University of Technology and Guangdong University of Technology found that people who listen to music over 120bpm were riskier drivers.

Rock on!

The study, which looked took a sample of drivers and placed them in a sixty-minute highway simulation. The test group was split in three; one listened to rock music, the second to light music (a tempo below 80bpm) and the third had silence.

Researchers found that those listening to light or no music changed lanes up to 70 times in an hour, whereas those who listened to rock music changed lanes up to 140 times an hour. The latter also went about 5mph faster and in some cases 10mph.

Those who listened to light music drove comparably to those who had no music on.

“Rock music is often characterised as having a fast tempo and high sound volume . . . The findings are useful for the development of effective driver education strategies — in particular, a publicity programme that could enhance public awareness of the negative impact of music listening on driving performance.” – Qiang Zen (co-author of the study)

Volume up or volume down?

The study didn’t take account volume as participants were allowed to set a volume; however, a separate study in Canada found that reaction time could slow by as much as 20% with music over 95 decibels.
Regardless of whether you’re listening to the latest pop, rock, electronic or even classical music, it can also be a distraction. For all the classical fans, Winter (allegro non molto) by Vivaldi was a culprit of a fast BPM song and had a similar style to that of a distracting headbanger. Research from both Confused.com and Moneybarn shows different outlooks on music played in cars. The Confused study looked at the most played songs of 2018 and worked out which were good to listen to, and which were considered dangerous based on tempo and energy. Spotify has the tempo of a song, measured in BPM, and the energy which is the measure of intensity – how busy, loud and noisy the song feels – and is measured on a scale from 0 to 1, with one being the most intense.
Moneybarns research was different and looked at songs from all years and found that American Idiot by Green Day with 189 beats per minute was the most dangerous.

Top five most dangerous songs

WARNING! This song is explicit.
  1. “American Idiot” – Green Day
  2. “Party in the USA” – Miley Cyrus
  3. “Mr Brightside” – The Killers
  4. “Don’t Let Me Down” – The Chainsmokers
  5. “Born to Run” – Bruce Springsteen

Top five safest songs

  1. “Stairway to Heaven” – Led Zeppelin
  2. “Under the Bridge” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  3. “God’s Plan” – Drake
  4. “Africa” – Toto
  5. “Location” – Khalid

Safe drive, stay alive

So, what can you do to drive safely? A lot of us like listening to music, and on a long journey or a late-night drive, music can help to keep you awake and focused.

Making the right choices in what you listen to is important. If you use Spotify, Apple Music or any other music streaming service, why not create a driving playlist? Choose songs that have a similar BPM to a heartbeat, which sits between approximately 60-100BPM, as this is what experts say is best.

Chartered psychologist Dr Simon Moore says, “Fast music can cause excitement and arousal that can lead people to concentrate more on the music than the road. In addition, a fast tempo can cause people to subconsciously speed up to match the beat of the song”.

According to Dr Moore, the optimum tempo of a song for safe driving should mimic the human heartbeat. The safest songs for the road are within 60-100 bpm and not too extreme in energy in either direction (not too much and not too little).

If you’re a radio fan, then Smooth Radio or Classic FM is the best as the general BPM and energy was soothing. Beware Radio X, Heart or Absolute Radio as these had the highest proportion of ‘dangerous’ songs according to Moneybarn. They took a random sample of 15 songs from the most popular UK radio stations to see which had the highest number of dangerous songs.

Do you listen to music while driving? What do you think of this study? Let us know in the comments
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