Driving with ‘wrong’ type of music can be dangerous, says BGU psychologist

"The car is the only place in the world you can die just because you’re listening to the wrong kind of music.”

June 23, 2015 03:05
1 minute read.
Traffic accident

The scene of a traffic accident on Road 31 near Arad. (photo credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM)

Every driver should know that fiddling with one’s smartphone while on the road can be fatal. But now, Ben-Gurion University’s director of Music Science Research, Dr. Warren Brodsky, maintains that playing the wrong type of music while you drive can also be deadly.

Brodsky has written a scholarly book on the subject – Driving with Music: Cognitive-Behavioral Implications – which he calls the first comprehensive textbook on music and its impact on driving. He is scheduled to speak about it at the Eighth International Driving Symposium on Human Factors in Driver Assessment, Training, and Vehicle Design in Salt Lake City, Utah this week.

“The car is the only place in the world you can die just because you’re listening to the wrong kind of music,” said Brodsky. “Both novice and experienced drivers must be more aware of how music influences their driving behavior and vehicle control,” he explains in the book. Inappropriate music contributes to traffic violations and human error, he added.

One’s choice of music can have a major influence on driving, and, in some circumstances, lead to serious and even fatal outcomes. In fact, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that driver inattention, including music distraction, is a contributing factor in 25 percent to 30% of the 1.2 million crashes per year in the US. Similar statistics from 2009 indicate that more than 5,400 people were killed and 515,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes attributed to distracted driving.

The book discusses ill effects of in-car music listening, research on the safest and most dangerous driving songs, types of in-car music listeners, the risks of singing along with music (karaoke) in the car and the “ultimate list” of beneficial car songs.

“The research is irrefutable that listening to music in the car affects the way you drive,” Brodsky explained. “But whether it’s Beethoven, Count Basie or Justin Bieber is irrelevant.

Ideally drivers should choose tunes that do not trigger distracting thoughts, memories, emotions, or hand drumming along to the beat while driving.”

Born in Philadelphia, Brodsky trained as an orchestra percussionist, elementary school music teacher, and music psychotherapist. Following a 10-year clinical practice, Brodsky did his doctorate in psychology. In addition to his extensive research credentials, he has conducted studies for General Motors on music and branding.

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