Singing Drivers Carry a Safety Tune, Research Shows

August 1, 2005

They may look like drivers to stay clear of but those who sing out loud while zipping along in their cars may be safer than the silent types.

Singing along to favorite music on the car stereo can help music-loving motorists drive more safely, according to new research by British insurer, Privilege Insurance.

Half of all motorists say they often sing along to music while driving, while almost one in 10 (seven percent) claim that in-car conversation distracts them.

Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of safe drivers – those with four or more accident free years – claimed that the music they listened to soothed them while driving, making them feel calmer and more relaxed. A quarter (24 percent) said that music actually aided their concentration.

The Privilege study also finds that particular genres of music are more likely to be listened to by safe drivers – easy listening, classical and indie/rock, while those without four accident free years tend to listen to indie/rock, dance/house music and R’n’B when motoring, although chart/pop music is the most listened to genre by safe and unsafe drivers alike.

Dr Nicola Dibben, a music psychologist from the University of Sheffield who carried out the study on behalf of Privilege, states that music which is overly complex – in other words, with little repetition and with highly emotive vocals – can actually divert motorists’ attention away from the roads, lead to greater driver aggression and reckless motoring behaviour, and may put drivers at risk of accidents.

In the study, Dr Dibben confirms that music can actually help motorists drive safely. She says that music is more effective than silence, conversation, or talk radio in achieving an optimal state of alertness. It therefore aids safe motoring and enables drivers to relax, concentrate and keep themselves alert while driving. Even singing along to music can help, it seems.

“Singing while driving stimulates not only the mind but also the body which in turn produces heightened alertness and reduced fatigue. Singing may be less distracting than conversation because drivers recall words to songs they already know, or because it is fairly easy to learn the words to music where it uses repeated lyric,” she said.

The Privilege Insurance research also finds, however, that some music can be distracting, so it is important that drivers choose music which is recognizable to them, is unlikely to distract them and will put them in a positive mood, accoridng to Dr. Dibben. “Choosing the right music can actually boost concentration and increase considerate, safe driving,” she added.

Based on the findings of the study, Privilege Insurance has compiled five top tips to help drivers pick the perfect safe driving soundtrack:
1) To help you keep calm in stressful driving situations, choose mid-paced music with lyrics that are not excessively aggressive.
2) If becoming bored on a long journey, choose music which varies in volume and tempo to increase alertness.
3) Choose music which evokes pleasant memories to ensure a positive frame of mind.
4) Ensure music is played at a comfortable listening level.
5) Sing along to the music you choose if you know it well!

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