A new study by motor magazine Auto Express and road safety organization IAM Roadsmart compared drivers’ reaction times while listening to various genres of music. The study concluded that listening to heavy metal caused the largest delay in reaction time — or, in other words, bad driving. The study concluded that pop music was the best to listen to in the car.
The study compared four genres of music: heavy metal, pop, hip hop, and classical. A driver would complete two laps at the Grand Prix track at the Red Bull Ring in Austria while blasting a song from the specified genre at full volume. The driving course included fast acceleration, technically challenging corners, and a speed-limit zone.
After completing a course with no music, the driver blasted “(Sic)” by Slipknot. The driver’s reaction times were significantly affected. The course was completed 14 seconds slower and the driver had more jagged throttle movements. The driver said the heavy metal music made it harder to concentrate on the course.
The next genre tested was classical music. The driver played Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” while driving the course. The music had a different effect, but with a similar outcome. The driver was calmer — but to a fault. The classical music chilled him out so much that he dropped his speed to 35 mph in a 50 mph speed zone without noticing.
Pop music had the best outcome. The driver listened to “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift. The pop music course was completed the smoothest and was only two seconds behind his control time. Playing “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar, meanwhile, helped the driver complete the course just one second after his control time, but he dangerously over-shot the finish line.
Auto Express editor-in-chief Steve Fowler said the study had an interesting outcome. “Much of the focus around distracted driving is on using a handheld mobile behind the wheel, and rightly so. But Auto Express’s joint research with IAM RoadSmart shows that as well as making a conscious decision to put their phone away when driving, motorists should also think carefully about what music they listen to.”
“While heavy metal was clearly linked to Tristan’s worst lap, classical music fans may be interested to learn that some pieces appear to promote too deep a state of relaxation to be listened to when behind the wheel,” added Fowler.
While the study definitely leaves room for improvement (like testing several different drivers rather than just one), one might want to think twice before turning on Slipknot in the car.