A music psychologist in Israel suggests that what you’re listening to can affected how you drive, with disastrous consequences. Professor Warren Brodsky is the director of music psychology in the Department of the Arts at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and he has a new book on the connection between music, emotion, and driving.
“The car is the only place in the world you can die just because you’re listening to the wrong kind of music,” Brodsky told the news site Haaretz. But it isn’t the genre of music that is putting drivers at risk. Death metal isn’t more likely to cause and accident than classical, Brodsky says. The problem is the driver’s emotional connection to the music.
When a driver becomes emotional they are distracted from the road. A song that inspires happiness, sadness, nostalgia or even simply high-energy toe-tapping (or “hand drumming” in Brodsky’s words) can cause a driver to become unfocused. Distracted driving is a major threat on the nation’s roadways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that driver distraction is a factor in more than a quarter of the 1.2 million crashes per year in the United States. A 2013 study from Erie Insurance found that simply day-dreaming caused 60 percent of fatal distracted drivingcrashes over a two-year period.
Brodsky’s research shows that drivers should avoid music that inspires extremely negative or positive emotions, and that a quick change in music can help change the emotional state of an agitated driver. He envisions a system in cars that would automatically change a song if sensors indicated an intense emotional reaction. Until such systems exist, feel free to thrash away, but keep songs that remind you of your ex off that dial.