The best music to drive to may spark some debate. Some might say smooth, relaxing sounds are best, while others could argue that upbeat and fast tempo music keeps you alert and awake.
Music, podcasts, or whatever you listen to while driving may seem unimportant, but did you know you can get a ticket for playing music too loud while driving? Living your cinematic dreams of flying down the freeway with your favorite song blasting will only cut to commercial if you disturb other drivers along the way.
If you like to drive with loud music, this may feel unfair because it’s your car. But when you think about the average miles driven per year by every driver, one or two noisy vehicles on the road adds up fast.
Does driving with loud music affect your driving?
Although it may be funny to turn down the volume of the radio to “see” better, the correlation between what we hear and see has less to do with the senses of sight and hearing than we think.
Although noise levels themselves don’t directly affect vision, being able to concentrate certainly does. The most important aspects of driving are awareness, attentiveness, focus, and decision-making. When our attention is split between listening to our favorite song and monitoring the road, our subconscious becomes more focused on what we’re listening to.
When listening to your favorite songs, it can be impossible not to want to dance or sing along, further dividing your attention and reducing your reaction time. As a result, loud music becomes a physical and mental distraction that is dangerous for many reasons.
A list of a few ways that driving with loud music impairs someone’s driving includes:
- Being unable to hear outside noise
- Going the wrong way
- Missing important road signage
Noise level within a vehicle is a serious roadway issue that distracts all drivers within earshot. However, it’s not just volume that seems to impair driving, but the type of distracting music we are listening to.
What should I listen to while driving long distances?
You may be pumped to hit the road for your first camping trip, but unless your preferred genre is smooth jazz, driving in silence is likely better for your safety.
Studies have shown that different types of music have drastic effects on a driver’s mood and quality of driving. A song’s tempo alone could be the difference between what distracts you or increases your focus.
While listening to a preferred choice of music has proven to heighten feelings of happiness, it can have quite the opposite effect when it comes to driving. For example, a study done with young drivers in Israel found that driving performances got worse when participants drove with their preferred music.
They measured each participant’s performance by traffic violations, driving behavior, and level of distraction behind the wheel. They found that the young drivers engaged in more aggressive driving and had allowed for more significant distractions when driving to music they liked.
This same equation is also applied to nonmusical sounds such as podcasts or audiobooks. Listening to a discussion, person, or book with a passionate subject matter or frequent disruptive sound effects can be equally distracting.
The drivers drove measurably safer when listening to non-lyrical, calmer music, or no sound at all.
As a driver, it is important to consider safety study results and expert advice before hitting the road. Unfortunately, our minds simply don’t multitask well, so no matter how well we drive, human biology doesn’t allow us to truly focus on more than one thing at a time.
How do you listen to music on a road trip?
Applying this information doesn’t mean you have to hate being on the road. There are still plenty of great ways to enjoy your time behind the wheel. Besides, traveling can help your mental health, which means getting to your destination should be a fun and stress-relieving experience.
Here are a few alternatives to playing loud music you can practice next time you drive:
- Listen to inspiring speeches
- Listen to instrumentals
- Listen to meditation sounds
- Play a guided meditation
- Record audio of your thoughts while driving
Be sure to keep your volume low and set a music playlist to keep you from searching for the next tune or station
Bonus insurance tip: Taking measures to help you avoid distracted driving could help you save on insurance. The fewer accidents you are in and the fewer tickets you get, the more likely you are to get a safe driver discount.
Listening to Music Behind the Wheel and Auto Insurance
Distracted driving is something that both police and auto insurance companies take very seriously. Unfortunately, we often overestimate our capabilities, and multitasking is usually on that list simply because we don’t realize what actions split our attention.
The law on vehicle noise says that you can play music in your car as long as the car stereo isn’t “plainly audible” after a distance of 25 feet or more. If your vehicle is radiating noise that can be detected past that range, a police officer can and likely will give you a ticket.
A citation for driving with a phone in hand or putting on makeup while on the road could be enough to increase a driver’s premium quite drastically. In fact, the national average of even one distracted driving citation is enough to raise a driver’s insurance rate by at least 23% and even more if needing to open a new policy within the same year.
In addition to increased premiums, if you are found guilty of distracted driving at the time of an accident, your insurer can also deny any resulting claims. That means that even if an accident isn’t your fault, you could be liable for the financial burdens of your and another’s vehicle or other damaged property.
Enjoy Your Road Trip Without the Distractions
The good thing about distracted driving is that what you do behind the wheel is in your control, unlike so many other road elements. So before you drive, take steps that ensure your comfort and concentration on the road. Finding new and dreamy places to visit is encouraged, but no matter how close or how far, getting there safely should always be what’s most important.