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Safe songs are music to drivers’ ears

New research suggests that half of motorists say they often sing along to music while driving and almost two-thirds of drivers who have four or more years of accident-free driving claim the music they listen to soothes them, making them feel calmer and more relaxed.

The results come from a survey of 1,780 motorists carried out by YouGov with research commissioned by Privilege Insurance and interpreted by the University of Sheffield.

Music psychologist Dr Nicola Dibben, based at the university, said overly complex music, tunes with little repetition and songs with emotive vocals could all divert motorists’ attention away from the roads and increase their aggression levels.

She said: ‘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 lyrics.’

She added that choosing the right music – songs drivers recognise – can boost concentration levels and increase safe driving.

Privilege Insurance managing director Ian Parker commented: ‘This study shows that listening to music can have both positive and negative effects on driving behaviour.

‘The right music can aid safe driving by increasing alertness and putting the motorist in a calm and relaxed state of mind. Meanwhile the wrong music can impair safe driving by distracting motorists and even increasing their aggression on the roads.’

The survey also revealed that one in 10 respondents found in-car conversations distracting.

Tips for safer driving

  • To help keep calm in a stressful driving situations, choose mid-paced music with lyrics that are not aggressive
  • If bored on a long journey, choose music which varies in volume and tempo to increase alertness
  • Choose music which evokes pleasant memories to ensure a positive frame of mind
  • Do not play music too loud
  • Sing along to the music you choose if you know it well

    Songs to avoid in the car

  • Firestarter - The Prodigy, The Fat of the Land (1997)
  • Start the Riot - Atari Teenage Riot, Delete Yourself (1996)
  • Kim - Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
  • Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 - Edward Elgar, Marches for Orchestra, op.39 (1901)
  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheba - George Frederic Handel, ‘Solomon’

    Safer songs for drivers

  • Disco 2000 - Pulp, Different Class (1996)
  • Don’t Cha Wanna Ride - Joss Stone, Mind, Body and Soul (2004)
  • Heya - OutKast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)
  • They Can’t Take That Away From Me - Frank Sinatra, Swing Easy (1955)
  • Canon in D - Pachelbel (1680)
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