Want to keep your teen driver safe behind the wheel? Find an easy listening radio station and rip off the knob.
A new study by Israeli researchers Warren Brodsky and Zack Slor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev finds that teens who listen to their favorite music while driving are significantly more distracted out on the road.
A driving instructor/researcher accompanied 85 novice male and female drivers on six different 40-minute trips. On two of the trips, drivers played music from their own playlists; two trips involved background music that was designed by the researchers to increase driver safety; and the final trips involved no music at all.
It should come as no surprise that teens love their music loud. Volumes in the car topped out around 100 decibels, and the group's favorite music was "highly energetic and fast-paced," according to Brodsky.
But almost every driver (98 percent) averaged three deficient driving behaviors when cranking his or her own tunes, the researchers said, and a whopping 32 percent of them required a verbal warning or command. Even worse, 20 percent required assisted braking or steering from the researcher to prevent an imminent accident.
Males committed more deficient driving behaviors than females regardless of which music was playing and were more often classified as aggressive drivers by the driving instructors.
The most frequent errors included speeding, tailgating, careless lane changes and passing, and one-handed driving.
Some music is better than no music
You might be considering pulling the stereo out of your car completely, but it turns out that some music is actually better than none. The silent outings resulted in 92 percent of the drivers making errors, while driving to the researchers' selections dropped errors by 20 percent.
Unfortunately, the safe-driving mix tape is probably not going to be your teen's new favorite. In fact, the average volume dropped to 82 decibels when it hit the speakers. The mix of easy listening, light jazz and soft rock, according to Brodsky, incorporates well-balanced musical elements with modest rhythmic qualities but does not include vocal performances or lyrics.
Drivers' moods were significantly more positive when listening to their own music, but these elevated mood levels can contribute to distraction. "Drivers are not aware that as they get 'drawn in' by a song they move from an extra-personal space involving driving tasks to a more personal space of active music listening," says Brodsky.
Teenagers need all the help they can get behind the wheel. A new driver is 12 times more likely to have an accident than someone with just a year of experience, according to the National Institutes of Health. (See "Young drivers: What you need to know.")
The Devil's music!
The teens brought in a total of 1,035 pieces of music. They were not listening to folk.
Dance, techno and rock topped the list, followed closely by punk, pop, hip-hop and rap. While there is no way to determine the most distracting song in the world, here is a short list of the more popular songs on the teen's playlists:
- "Champagne Showers" - LMFAO
- "Bass Down Low" - Dev/The Cataracs
- "Give Me Everything" - Pitbull
- "I'm Into You" - Jennifer Lopez
- "Tonight" - Enrique Iglesias/Pitbull
- "Miami To Ibiza" - Swedish House Mafia
- "Where Them Girls At" - David Guetta
- '"Yeah 3x" - Chris Brown
And, if you're curious, here's the safe-driving music cooked up by the researchers and composer Micha Kizner.