Pump up the jams? Tunes: A good driving distraction? The right music could actually help your mind tackle trouble on the road, finds research from the...
Tunes: A good driving distraction? The right music could actually help your mind tackle trouble on the road, finds research from the Netherlands.
In the study, 69 people hit a virtual road in a driving simulator with or without music. Researchers found that—contrary to some past studies—reaction times actually improved 26 percent (dropping from 4.65 seconds to 3.44) among those listening to music while following an unpredictable vehicle. The music-aided motorists also shaved nearly two-tenths of a second off their reaction time to a parked car suddenly speeding off—potentially enough time to save their fender from a bender.
What gives? The mental effort required to drive while listening to music is actually 40 percent greater than motoring without tunes, according to the study. But instead of distracting you, that extra cerebral effort appears to keep you focused and alert even during boring, monotonous drives, the researchers explain.
The volume or tempo of the tunes doesn’t matter so long as you’re comfortable with both, the researchers say. Unpleasant noise—music you don’t like, are constantly changing, or sound that’s too loud—could be more distracting than arousing, shows a similar study from Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland. Another idea: Try podcasts or talk radio. The variety of the content can keep you engaged if music starts to seem repetitive on a long drive, explains Paul Atchley, Ph.D., who has researched driving safety at the University of Kansas.
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