For Teens, Favorite Tunes May Impair Driving

On-road study found they drove more safely with calmer music chosen by others

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On the no-music trips 92 percent of the teens also made similar errors.

The team found, however, that when teens drove with the calming alternate soundtrack in the background their deficient driving behaviors fell by 20 percent.

But will teen drivers turn down the volume on music they like? Brodsky pointed to the slow but steady acceptance of seatbelts and condoms, suggesting that this too "is an issue of awareness and changing attitudes."

"The car is not a dance floor, nor a karaoke bar, a sports facility or exercise class," he said, adding that "the music chosen to listen to should be more adaptive to the environment."

Although the U.S. National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration deems "adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player" to be a distraction that "could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving," it has not specifically studied how music itself might distract drivers.

The NHTSA, however, did point out that in 2011 more than 390,000 Americans were involved in a crash with a distracted driver, and that the under-20 set is the age group with the largest proportion of distracted drivers.

More information

For more on distracted driving concerns, visit the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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