Jammin’ and Drivin’

Personally, I like driving. I particularly like driving alone. My reasons for this have to do in part with the fact that I love having that extended period of time where I have the chance to sit and listen to music and jam out in the car by myself. Music just makes me a lot more laid back and happy in general. However many people, such as my own father, believe that listening to music in the car leads to distracted driving. My dad likes to tell me not to listen to music in the car. Sorry dad, but I’m not about to sit in utter silence for long drives, even if I do think you might be right. It makes sense logically that music would be distracting while driving, or would at least affect our driving, however I wanted to find some actual research that back up this anecdotal claim.

I formed the null hypothesis that listening to music in the car does not affect our driving, and the alternative hypothesis that listening to music in the car does affect our driving in some way.

First I found this study, the purpose of which was to look at the braking response time in relation to music volume levels. The study was done with 16 men and 11 women, all licensed drivers, and all between the ages of 19 and 23 years old. They were tested with a driving apparatus in a laboratory that imitated movements involved in driving a car. They went through the test four times, once without music, two more times with music increasing in volume each time, and a forth time while holding a phone conversation with one of the researchers. I was highly disappointed to see that the results of this study showed that listening to music did not greatly affect response times. However, it would be logically to say that these results may be due to external variables. For example, the participants may have been so focused on doing well that they just tuned out the music. They knew they were being tested on driving accuracy so they focused more on the driving and not as much on the music than they normally would have. The music may have also had something to do with it. I know if I’m listening to a song playing that I don’t know, I’m less likely to pay much attention to it. Maybe if the participants were allowed to pick their favorite song to play, like they would do if they were actually driving in their own cars, it would’ve shown how distracted people normally get by music in their cars. I do think that if they used a larger sample size, the results may have been different.

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Another study, done in the UK with around 1000 participants ranging through all ages, had similar results. The way they gather their information, however, was almost solely through anecdotes. The researchers had the participants answer questions on what music they were listening to, how loud it was, how it made them feel, and other such things. So basically a lot of the information was based on whether or not the person claimed that music made them feel for relaxed, focused, distracted, etc. They did look at driving records and accident reports for the participants. 23 percent of the drivers who had been involved in accidents reported that music had been playing at the time.  Considering this wasn’t the majority, it cannot be said that music had a clear direct causation with the accidents. The results were essentially non-conclusive. It could not be said whether or not music made drivers more distracted or not.

Altogether, I’m disappointed that all of the studies I was able to find did not give me conclusive results. It seems that either the wrong studies are being done, not enough studies have been done, or there aren’t enough people involved in the studies to really get good results. I can neither accept nor reject my null hypothesis, because in some cases, music seemed to affect driving while in others it did not. I do believe though, and I’m sure many people would agree with me, that music does affect driving even if there isn’t solid evidence to support this claim.


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12 thoughts on “Jammin’ and Drivin’

  1. Derek William Drotman

    Even after both studies rejected your alternative hypothesis and accepted the null, which states that driving with music affects an individuals driving, I still do think to some extent it depends on how laud the music is playing. If a song is extremely laud a driver can’t hear the traffic which will then increase their risk of getting into an accident. I learned this the hard way when I was blasting music as I backed out of one my my friends driveway and didn’t hear my the alarm on the backup camera go off and proceeded to back into my friends brand new car. Luckily the damages weren’t terrible and I definitely learned my lesson which is to lower the music when your driving! I believe it is very dangerous and distracting.

  2. Jordan Crawford

    I liked this post because I listen to music in my truck every day. The first thing I do is turn on my Sirius XM when I get into my truck. I do notice a change in my driving behavior based on the music I play in my truck. When I’m driving to the gym, I normally listen to songs that get me pumped up and in the zone. While listening to those songs I normally drive more aggressive and faster. Now when I take my Dad’s 1953 Chevy Truck for a drive I listen to slower calmer music, so I tend to drive slow and really enjoy the drive.

  3. Maura Katherine Maguire

    This post really sparked my interest because listening to music in the car is one of my absolute favorite past times. When coming home for break one of the things I was most excited about was the idea of driving in my car alone listening to my favorite playlist. However I almost get scolded by my parents because they believe I listen to the music way too loud and become extremely distracted. I have been in a few car accidents in my life and most were due to distraction. This post really reminds me that while I love jamming to music my health and safety needs to come first.

  4. Mairead Donnard

    This was such an intriguing post to read! I love listening to music when I drive. With this being said, I definitely feel that the music that I am listening to certainly impacts the way I drive. For example, if I am listening to Kanye, I find myself more likely to make riskier decisions. I realize that that is pretty bad, but I agree with you as I am not going to sit in silence. Just as listening to music when I drive impacts the way in which I drive, music also impacts the type of workout that I get at the gym. Here is an article that you might find interesting: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/psychology-workout-music/
    The article talks about the psychology of listening to music at the gym.

  5. Mackenzie French

    One of the things I missed the most was driving in my car blasting music. So, over break I did so, a lot, with friends and alone. I do have to admit that when driving in the car with friends and listening to music can be very distracting since we like to dance and such. But, driving alone I think its more soothing and comforting and makes driving alone obviously more fun. Your post was interesting to see whether or not it is dangerous, but frustrating to see there is no conclusions. It might be anecdotal and depend on who the person is driving, what age, what song, etc. There are many variables that come into play with this. Here’s an interesting article on how listening to music in the car effects your mood, anxiety and driving ability. http://drivingfearhelp.com/how-listening-to-music-while-driving-impacts-your-driving-anxiety/

  6. Danielle Megan Sobel

    Hey cool blog. While I was home for the break, I started to drive my car again, and loved it. I drove everywhere and went on errands for everybody just so I had an excuse to drive (and listen to music while doing it). Something is just better about listening to music while driving. However, I do get quite distracted sometimes if I focus on the words of the song, or if it is too late/dark at night. This article considers “bopping” to music is dangerous and talks about the 3 mistakes that most teens make while driving (I haven’t made any yet).

  7. Christopher Ronkainen

    I like yourself am a huge fan on jamming out in the car. Without music while driving I am extremely bored and irritable. I personally do not get distracted while listening, but rather while changing radio stations and or the song playing on my phone. I am also curious as to if certain types of music would distract you more and like you looked at, if volume would have an influence. I decided to google your topic and ran across this article that I think would be worth your time to look at.

  8. Lauren Eve Ribeiro

    I think another external variable that was not tested was the use of cell phones. Today, a majority of people listen to their music via soundcloud, spotify, pandora, etc. and not as much radio, CD or tape. Therefore people tend to link their phone up either through bluetooth or an auxiliary cord. With the music being on the phone it could be a possibility that people look down at their phone which could also result in car accidents. Although it did not say, i’m sure it is assumed that during the study music was being played over a loudspeaker or something of that sort to simulate a car speaker. I think to be more accurate with today’s tendencies and technology, the participant should have chosen what music they would like to listen to (like a favorite song to jam out to like you said) and play it from their phone. It would be interesting to see if people fiddled with their phone during the study.

  9. jrg5685

    I found this post very interesting. I, personally am the same as you in the fact that I love listening to music while driving. It relaxes me and makes the ride a lot more enjoyable. Personally I never feel distracted by the music playing. However, when I use my phone to switch songs on Spotify I find my self getting very distracted and this has resulted in several ‘close calls’ if I do say so myself. While doing some research on your topic I came across this awesome article that I think you should check out!

  10. Kayla Neiland

    So relatable, I personally think I’m a better driver when I am jamming out to music because I feel so relaxed. With this being said its hard for me to believe it the music that is the problem, it has to be a confounding variable, adjusting the volume or going onto your phone to change the song. Last yer a friend of mine got into a car accident because she was changing the song while the traffic light changed and she rear ended the person in front of her. This situation is tied to texting and driving, a deadly risk. https://www.edgarsnyder.com/car-accident/cause-of-accident/cell-phone/cell-phone-statistics.html
    Based on these numbers it is a very real problem people today face. Keep jamming out but set up a playlist ahead of time!

  11. Olivia Anne Browne

    Great post! Really relatable. I can certainly say I am definitely guilty of turning up the radio real loud when I am driving. I am a decently good driver, I live on Long Island and face tons of aggressive drivers everyday. I can definitely say I always have music on and I don’t think the music is whats distracting, I think it has a lot to do with the volume. Light music doesn’t seem to phase me what so ever but very loud music can take a toll. Carrying a conversation on the phone is completely distracting to me especially while driving in a highly populated area. Overall I think this was a great topic and post.
    Check out this article on distracted driving .


  12. Rachel Waite

    I am a huge fan of listening to music on long car rides as well, especially when I am by myself. Upon reading your blog post I am intrigued as to the possible harmful effects it could have on one’s ability to drive. After some research I came across a Huffington Post article which describes an experiment conducted by London Metropolitan University to test not only the effects that music has on one’s driving but also whether or not the type of music playing would cause the effects to differ. I found this hypothesis to be quite intriguing. While the design of the experiment provides an excellent insight into the possible affects of music, the sample size the study was conducted on was only 8 participants. While they concluded that hip-hop and rock are the most dangerous to drive to, I feel that for those experimental results to be considered substantial a larger sample needs to be tested. So similar to your conclusions, it seems that not enough experiments have been run testing this theory to provide me with a substantial answer to the hypothesis. If you wish to read more about the experiment you can visit this website http://www.huffingtonpost.com/malcolm-kushner/music-driving-influence_b_2500959.html

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