Most people love listening to music while they drive. That morning commute gets boring otherwise, and it's easier than ever now to stream music from your phone or other mobile device. With all of your music right there at your fingertips, you blast your favorite songs and sing along while you drive.
As common as this is, experts warn that it can be very distracting and dangerous, having a tangible impact on the way you drive and the likelihood of an accident. Studies have found that people make more mistakes behind the wheel when they're allowed to listen to the music of their own choosing.
For the study, 85 novice drivers were chosen, and each one drove six different routes. An instructor was in the car at the time, so they knew they were being monitored. On two trips, there was no music at all. On two of them, "easy listening" music was played -- this type of music was the style researchers believed would not be distracting and could help keep drivers safe. On the other two trips, the driver was allowed to pick the music off of his or her own playlist.
Serious mistakes were made by a stunning 98 percent of the drivers when they had their own music on. Examples of these mistakes included driving with just one hand, tailgating other cars, and breaking the speed limit. Without music, the rate dropped notably, and 92 percent of the drivers made these errors. For the controlled playlist that the researchers had designed, the rate dropped by a full 20 percent.
What researchers concluded, then, was that enjoying the music had a lot to do with the mistakes. Drivers who were more engaged with the music were less engaged with driving, and these potentially dangerous mistakes were the direct result.
This study shows that even very common, everyday actions can be huge distractions behind the wheel, perhaps explaining why it's so hard to reduce yearly car accident numbers. If you're hit by a distracted driver, even a driver who didn't realize that he or she was distracted, you may have a right to compensation.
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