The effects of music tempo on simulated driving performance and vehicular control

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


The automobile is currently the most popular and frequently reported location for listening to music. Yet, not much is known about the effects of music on driving performance, and only a handful of studies report that music-evoked arousal generated by loudness decreases automotive performance. Nevertheless, music tempo increases driving risks by competing for attentional space; the greater number of temporal events which must be processed, and the frequency of temporal changes which require larger memory storage, distract operations and optimal driving capacities. The current study explored the effects of music tempo on PC-controlled simulated driving. It was hypothesized that simulated driving while listening to fast-paced music would increase heart rate (HR), decrease simulated lap time, and increase virtual traffic violations. The study found that music tempo consistently affected both simulated driving speed and perceived speed estimates: as the tempo of background music increased, so too did simulated driving speed and speed estimate. Further, the tempo of background music consistently affected the frequency of virtual traffic violations: disregarded red traffic-lights (RLs), lane crossings (LNs), and collisions (ACs) were most frequent with fast-paced music. The number of music-related automobile accidents and fatalities is not a known statistic. Police investigators, drivers, and traffic researchers themselves are not mindful of the risks associated with listening to music while driving. Implications of the study point to a need for drivers' education courses to raise public awareness about the effects of music during driving.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-241
Number of pages23
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2001


  • Control
  • Driving performance
  • Music effects
  • Music tempo
  • Simulated driving
  • Speed estimates
  • Vehicular music

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Applied Psychology


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