Background Music as a Risk Factor for Distraction Among Young-Novice Drivers

Warren Brodsky, Zack Slor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


There are countless beliefs about the power of music during driving. The last thing one would think about is: how safe is it to listen or sing to music? Unfortunately, collisions linked to music devices have been known for some time; adjusting the radio controls, swapping tape-cassettes and compact-discs, or searching through MP3 files, are all forms of distraction that can result in a near-crash or crash. While the decrement of vehicular performance can also occur from capacity interference to central attention, whether or not music listening is a contributing factor to distraction is relatively unknown. The current study explored the effects of driver-preferred music on driver behavior. 85 young-novice drivers completed six trips in an instrumented Learners Vehicle. The study found that all participants committed at-least 3 driver deficiencies; 27 needed a verbal warning/command and 17 required a steering or braking intervention to prevent an accident. While there were elevated positive moods and enjoyment for trips with driver-preferred music, this background also produced the most frequent severe driver miscalculations and inaccuracies, violations, and aggressive driving. However, trips with music structurally designed to generate moderate levels of perceptual complexity, improved driver behavior and increased driver safety. The study is the first within-subjects on-road high-dose double-exposure clinical-trial investigation of musical stimuli on driver behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-393
Number of pages12
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
StatePublished - 5 Aug 2013


  • Distraction
  • Driver deficiency
  • In-car listening
  • Music
  • Risk factors
  • Young-novice drivers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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