Death metal - when music kills

PETER LOUISSON
Last updated 08:52 08/06/2012

People who test cars are picky, because that's their job. The things they're picky about chop and change, according to what's fashionable to get down on. For a long time it was centre rear lap belts; this is not an unreasonable whinge, given that abdominal injury from wearing a lap belt is a possibility in a severe crash. However, that belt almost never gets used because cars transport only one person 90 per cent of the time. In the end, most car companies capitulated and installed a fifth three-point belt.

Lately, motor noters have been whingeing about cars that don't have USB inputs for iPods. OMG, how awful for them, having to search for a cord with a stereo minijack plug. Reality check; most people own cars that don't even have an aux input.

Anyway, that's not quite the point here; the music itself is. Distractions while driving are a major cause of accidents; studies indicate that up to a half of all motor vehicle crashes have driver distraction as their root cause. There are myriad reasons, including rubbernecking, controlling the kids, cellphone use, even just conversing with your passengers. Now studies are suggesting that something as innocuous as listening to music while driving can be hazardous to your health. And not just because it increases the risk of a crash.

Dangers of listening to music while driving

Certain types of music are associated with mood changes that can harm how you drive. A UK survey of 2000 drivers revealed that almost a half found that rap music changed their mood while driving. One in five drivers became aggressive while listening to songs by rappers like Eminem, Jay-Z, or Dizzee Rascal. The good news is at least they're not listening to music that was made in the 80s. The bad news is they might be more prone to road rage if, for example, they see someone texting or driving with a cellphone stuck to their ear. Which seems to be about one in five motorists in Auckland; we don't seem to be getting the message. Perhaps an $80 fine is considered too trivial.

Another study indicated that drivers who listen to fast music in their cars have more than twice as many accidents as those listening to slower tracks. The latter group, however, were more prone to falling asleep at the wheel. Kidding, but driving tired is another leading cause of road traffic accidents.

The car is evidently the place where people most often listen to music nowadays, so this research does have worrying implications. Clearly, music can be a(nother) big distraction while driving.

And it seems playing music in the car can affect your health in other ways. The British RAC Foundation (like our AA) has found that a typical car stereo can produce sound pressure levels as high as 110dB, which can harm hearing permanently. Individuals exposed to noise levels of more than 85dB for eight hours a day are at increased risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss. In the workplace, they would be required to wear some form of hearing protection. Some sports cars can produce 85dB of road roar at 100kmh, and are therefore in the same boat.

Apparently, drivers who listen to fast-paced music loud are twice as likely to run red lights. They are also twice as likely to crash compared with drivers who either don't listen to music or opt for slower forms.

So, in-car entertainment can be hazardous to your health and that of other road users. Most people consider driving a trivial task, but to do it safely and responsibly requires concentration. Given that distractions are responsible for up to a half of all car crashes, we need to be aware of what these distractions are to minimise risk. Rock on, but don't rock too hard or loud.

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29 comments
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Jim   #1   09:03 am Jun 08 2012

Nice.

But no Kiwi drivers gives a crap because they all rate themselves as drivers.

Baffled   #2   09:05 am Jun 08 2012

How is this news or anything remotely new?

Wormed   #3   09:06 am Jun 08 2012

I blast extremely fast and loud ultra brutal death metal to and from work every day, it must be a miracle I'm crash free!

LVN   #4   09:17 am Jun 08 2012

Now, if only we had some smart laws in cities which got half the cars off the road by increasing it to 2 people for 90% of trips.

Or just better drivers.

D   #5   09:21 am Jun 08 2012

Loud music also impairs your ability to hear outside the vehicle - trucks approaching, sirens wailing, screeching brakes... where most drivers would then avoid the oncoming disaster, if you can't hear it, you can't avoid it.

Eddie   #6   09:51 am Jun 08 2012

BS.. your driving, its your current task, give it your full attention.

there are no dangerous distractions only dangerous drivers. Need to make a call? pull over and make the call. Need to change CD or radio station? pull over and do it. Not that hard.

who ever is in charge up there is dumber than the people they are trying to protect, no ones going to improve road safety by removing audio from cars or making everyone wear hi viz.. our driving standard will just get worse and worse at this rate with more blame being shifted to external factors all the time like "he didnt have headlights on so I couldnt see him" or "he didnt have hi-viz so I couldnt see him" or "music was too loud I couldnt see him" << yes that retarded. Switch the focus to driver training and driver responsiblity. and tougher licensing, I just completed a motorcycle license and when I asked for feedback the tester simply said "I was too busy driving my own car to watch what you were doing.." disgusting and thats VTNZ or VINZ whatever outfit they are.. Govt really needs to slap themselves awake and change the licensing procedure and the driver training that is the problem!!! no one in this country even knows how to do first aid im sure, so what are you going to do when you come across an accident.. first aid should be compulsory if your a driver - I did one of my own choice and I did private driver training as well to increase my skill. it should be compulsary.

michael   #7   09:57 am Jun 08 2012

Easy ... all cars by law should come with one unremovable Chopin CD and a sound limiter

Not Norah Jones   #8   09:59 am Jun 08 2012

The Norah Jones CD in my car gets very little use - she sends me to sleep.

DL   #9   10:13 am Jun 08 2012

Hey - leave the 80s alone

Chris W   #10   10:20 am Jun 08 2012

I think a more pressing issue is pedestrians listening to music, particularly with ear-bud style phones which block out traffic noise. I work around the University area here in Dunedin and having to brake/wait for an oblivious pedestrian walking out on the road without even really looking is a weekly occurrence.


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