Can Your Music Kill You?

    White and black MP3 playersMost of us enjoy listening to music while driving. We can switch on the radio without thinking or change songs on our MP3 players. But is this safe?

    A new study shows that listening to music while driving actually has little effect on driving performance. It doesn’t seem to curb response time and might even boost your focus in certain conditions.

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    For younger but experienced drivers, loud music from a CD or radio is not a safety concern on par with talking on a cellphone behind the wheel. Speaking on a cellphone or listening to passengers talking is quite different than listening to music, as the former types are examples of a more engaging listening situation.

    Listening to music, however, is not necessarily engaging all the time, and it seems like music or the radio might stay in the background, especially when the driving task needs full attention of the driver.

    Distracted driving is a serious public health issue. Each day in the United States, more than nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    To study music’s influence on driving performance, one research study enlisted 47 university students between 19 and 25 years old to engage in a series of simulated road tests. Participants had more than two and a half years’ driving experience on average.

    First, they were asked to create their own playlist, to make sure the music they listened to was familiar and well-liked.

    Computerized driving simulations then surrounded the motorists with four large screens to create a 240-degree view of traffic. Conditions included driving with loud music, driving with moderate-volume music and driving with no music. No sound adjustments were allowed while the tests were under way.

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