Research carried out by Auto Express and IAM RoadSmart has revealed that listening to pretty much any kind of music makes motorists slightly worse at driving.
The tests involved Auto Express’s Tristan Shale-Hester driving two simulated ‘precision’ laps of Austria’s Red Bull Ring Grand Prix track in a driving simulator.
He then did further laps while listening to different genres of music at full volume.
The test involved fast acceleration, a series of ‘technically challenging’ corners, a speed-limited zone and then a controlled stop on the finish line.
The control lap, without music, took 4m34s. When Shale-Hester did the same circuit listening to Slipknot, he was 14 seconds slower. He said the music made it harder to concentrate on the road and his throttle movements were described as ‘jagged’.
An attempt undertaken while listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations was actually two seconds quicker than the Slipknot lap, but it could be that Shale-Hester was too relaxed. He dropped his speed to 35mph in a 50mph without noticing.
An attempt listening to Shake It Off by Taylor Swift resulted in the most successful musical lap, just two seconds slower than the control. IAM RoadSmart expert Tim Shallcross said these laps were “smoothest in terms of speed consistency.”
The final test was accompanied by Kendric Lamar’s hip-hop track Humble. Shale-Hester was only a second slower on this effort but overshot the finish by four car lengths.
Steve Fowler, editor-in-chief of Auto Express said: “Much of the focus around distracted driving is on using a handheld mobile behind the wheel, and rightly so. But Auto Express’s joint research with IAM RoadSmart shows that as well as making a conscious decision to put their phone away when driving, motorists should also think carefully about what music they listen to.
“While heavy metal was clearly linked to Tristan’s worst lap, classical music fans may be interested to learn that some pieces appear to promote too deep a state of relaxation to be listened to when behind the wheel.”
Shallcross added: “What is clear is that the ferocious thrash metal really reduced the ability of the driver to get around the track smoothly. That, and high-energy dance music, are designed to be felt as well as heard, and to be listened to at volume. It’s clear neither help when it comes to making exacting driving manoeuvres.
“Volume is the major factor for concentration and has a big effect. I would certainly advise drivers to dial down the noise when making a manoeuvre – and save the thrash metal for later in the day, or night.”