A new study conducted by the South China University of Technology confirms that the choice of music in the car does indeed influence performance of driving. Specifically, listening to music over 120 BPM correlated with reckless driving—placing many people, especially the dance music listeners, in the guilty lane.
Within the study, researchers put test subjects in a driving simulator and had them navigate a six-lane motorway traffic. The scientists tested for the effects of music on how the subjects performed, having drivers go through the simulator either in silence or while listening to music. On average, drivers would switch 70 lanes in a 20-minute period. However, with the influence of high-tempo music, drivers switched lanes double-fold at an average of 140. Researchers concluded that this behavior indicated a higher crash rate.
Drivers listened to uptempo rock music (all above 120 BPM) and light music (all below 80 BPM) with 10 popular tracks chosen respectively for each genre. The song that topped the “most dangerous” list was Green Day’s infamous “American Idiot” which clocked in at 189 BPM. The study found that rock music resulted in participants having higher heart rates, more erratic driving speeds, and faster driving overall.
Lead researcher Qiang Zeng stated, “The findings are useful for the development of effective driver education strategies—in particular, a publicity programme that could enhance public awareness of the negative impact of music listening on driving performance.”