In our last post we talked about the fact that cellphones are distracting for drivers and walkers and are leading to an increase in pedestrian accidents. Now, a new study suggests we add singing to the list of distractions.
The study asked drivers to learn the lyrics to the song "Imagine" by John Lennon and "I'm A Believer," as performed by Smash Mouth. From there, a simulator assessed the performance of the drivers on an urban trip that included four different speed zones and both expected and unexpected events. For the purpose of the study, an unexpected event would be something like a pedestrian walking out into the road or the traffic light suddenly changing color.
From there it was found there are some definite differences between those drivers who sing along to music, those who just listen to music and those who do not listen to any music. Specifically, those singing were not as consistent when it came to their speeds and tended to drive slower. These same drivers also took longer to react to would-be hazards.
But, these same singing drivers were better at staying in their lanes, which may have something to do with the music leading to "cognitive tunneling," which is when additional mental processes, like singing, causes a person to only focus on what is directly in front of them. Of course, this is a positive in terms of not swerving and staying in the proper lane, but not checking mirrors and scanning visual fields when driving can still also be considered dangerous.
This was also not the first study to examine the role listening to music plays when it comes to driving. In a previous study it was found the type of music makes a difference in driving behaviors. For example, sad songs are linked to better lane-keeping, while happy songs are linked to poor lane-keeping.