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Does music influence mood and performance while driving?

Google ‘the best road trip songs’ and you’ll see endless results. You’ll find popular tunes taking a spot on many playlists – Mustang Sally, On the Road Again, Fast Car – all chosen for the same theme: driving. But what actually makes a song ‘best’ for driving?

What makes a song good for driving?

Driving is one of the most common activities during which we listen to music. It helps keep us company when we’re driving alone.

It’s a good way to stay entertained on long trips and can ease frustration, when we’re stuck in traffic.

We all know that listening to music can improve your mood and relax your body. But what about during driving?

There have been many studies over the years that try to understand how music affects us when we’re behind the wheel.

However, the research is not all similar enough to provide absolute proof in every aspect. Here we look at three of the main factors: mood, attention, and performance.

Mood

Your emotions, state of mind, and mood can affect the way you drive. So, if you’re stressed or angry, your driving becomes distracted, putting your safety at risk.

A study by Philips Research Laboratories first published online in 2012 shows that listening to music in a car affects mood while driving and in turn impacts a driver’s behaviour.

Attention

Music has its benefits while driving as it alleviates boredom and drowsiness and helps you remain alert.

On the other hand, music can also divert your attention away from the act of driving – and in demanding road situations that require your full concentration, switching off or turning the volume down low is recommended by road safety experts.

Performance

When a particular piece of music requires more of your attention, the more it competes with your task of driving.

In another study participants were put to the test in a driving video game where they were exposed to calm and energetic music.

When listening to the more upbeat, energetic music, their racing performance decreased along with slower lap times.

On the other hand, when listening to the calm, slow-tempo music they recorded the fastest lap times.

It seems that energetic music is more distracting because the gamers almost find themselves having to ‘multitask’ between the music and the driving.

What’s the best music to drive to, then?

It’s a tricky question.

We can say that good music to drive to is the type that reduces stress especially during peak traffic.

Your favourite tunes also brings down stress levels more than having no music playing at all.

So, it’s easy to believe that it’s not about a particular music genre or someone else’s playlist of songs that is ‘best’, but your own personal selection.

However, the big question is, “Does it improve my driving?”

As mentioned above, when music is distracting, it competes with your driving.

In a study involving a group of young drivers, they found that when listening to their favourite music, even though it put them in a good mood, their driving performance worsened.

They made more mistakes and they drove more aggressively. On the other hand, when listening to both the alternative calming music, and no music at all, they drove much more safely.

In conclusion

A good playlist of your favourite tunes can certainly boost your mood in peak hour traffic or on a long road trip.

For safety’s sake though, especially for young drivers with little experience on the road, remember that driving requires our full attention on our surroundings.

The key is to choose music that is not distracting and played at lower volumes. This is likely to be calmer slow-tempo, instrumental music with no vocals.

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Disclaimer: This content is for informational, educational, or entertainment purposes only. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of the content. The views and opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of the company.

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Does music influence mood and performance while driving?