- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

Motorists who listen to fast music are more likely to drive faster and increase their risk of accidents, a new study suggests.
The small study by Israeli researchers, reported this week by the British Broadcasting Corp., found that drivers who listen to fast music are twice as likely to go through red lights as those who don't listen to music in the car.
It also found that drivers who listen to fast music are twice as likely to have accidents as those who listen to music with a slow or medium tempo.
The findings were not definitive because only 28 drivers participated in the study, and they were monitored on a driving simulator, not actual streets or highways.
However, traffic safety specialists say no one should be surprised that fast music can distract drivers, as can talking on cell phones, eating, smoking or changing a tape in the car stereo. "You have to have your mind involved in driving. Fast music or any other distraction is going to impact your ability to drive safely," said Justin McNaull, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
"The message here has to do with distractions. A distraction is a distraction … music is a distraction," said Dennis Jones, a board member of the Alliance for Traffic Safety.
Warren Brodsky, Schillinger fellow for the study of music sciences in the Department of the Arts at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-sheeba, Israel, tells BBC News Online he thinks the research findings "have to be taken seriously."
Mr. Brodsky led the study, whose participants all of whom had seven years of behind-the-wheel experience simulated driving on the streets of Chicago while listening to different pieces of music or none at all.
Music selected by the researchers ranged from slow ballads to what were described as "fast and furious" numbers of the sort played at high volume in clubs frequented by teen-agers and young adults.
Tempos ranged from a slow 60 beats per minute up to 120 beats per minute or more.
Mr. Brodsky said he chose the selections he used in the study after listening to them as he drove to work. "I could hardly control myself with some of the pieces. It was difficult taking my foot off the gas pedal. I'm now more careful in my choice of music," he told the BBC.
Said Chuck Hurley, vice president of the National Safety Council's Transportation Safety Group: "The results of the study, though not scientific, are not surprising. Teen drivers [the population most likely to be listening to fast music] tend to be the most easily distracted. Sixteen-year-olds have three times the crash rate of 18-year-olds and seven times the crash rate of 25-year-olds. Therefore, distractions should be kept to a minimum" when a teen is at the wheel.
Mr. Brodsky's study did not address the issue of the volume of music played while driving. Nevertheless, he advised drivers to listen to music with slower tempos or to turn down the volume to reduce the risk of distraction.
"One would imagine volume to be as much of a distraction as tempo," Mr. McNaull said.
As for the significance of the Israeli research, Mr. McNaull said: "This doesn't seem to be a condemnation of having a radio in your car. It is one more voice on the issue of driver distractions."
But Roger Vincent of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in Great Britain told the BBC that the link found in the study between faster music and fast, reckless driving should be a warning for motorists. "It's a reminder to take their foot off the accelerator. A thousand deaths a year are associated with speed," he said.
In the United States, speeding deaths total nearly 10,800 annually, and approximately 800 people die in accidents caused by running red lights, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.


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