The surprising pop song that improves your driving skills

A new study by IAM Roadsmart and the motor magazine Auto Express, analyzes the impact different genres of music has on driving behavior. The researchers chose four artists and tracks to broadly illustrate a spectrum of intensity.  Representing heavy metal, we have Slipknot, and their song Sic, representing pop, we have Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off. Kendrick Lamar’s summer smash Humble was chosen for hip hop, and lastly, the revered German genius of the Baroque period, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations was chosen to represent classical music.

Ultimately the study revealed, the more intense and erratic the music, the more dangerous the driver became. If the music was too mellow however, the driver became too relaxed. Ultimately pop music was deemed the best music to listen too while driving, on the basis of speed consistency and concentration.  The study summarizes:

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“Volume is the major factor for concentration and has a big effect. I would certainly advise drivers to dial down the noise when making a maneuver – and save the thrash metal for later in the day, or night!”


To enact the study, consumer reporter Tristan Shale-Hester drove two laps around the Red Bull Ring Grand Prix pack in Austria. The first lap, which was the control lap,  was performed without any music. Hester reached the finish line during this lap in four minutes and 34 seconds. While listening to the four tracks previously mentioned, Hester, executed varying accelerations, corning and speed challenges, with a controlled stop at the finishing line. Although heavy metal music made Hester drive 14 seconds slower than he did during his control run, it also made him drive more erratically, and perform uneven throttle movements. On this Hester remarked, ‘listening to Slipknot made it harder to concentrate on the circuit layout.”

Listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations, caused Hester to drive 12 seconds slower than he did on his control lap in addition to driving 35 mph in a 50 mph zone. Lamar’s Humble saw Hester accidentally speed past the finish line even if it took only one second longer to complete this lap than his control lap. Swift resulted in the most consistent speed results, and it only cost Hester two seconds compared to his control lap. Heavy metal yielded  Hester’s worst overall lap, though classical music induced a level of relaxation counter-intuitive to safe focused driving.

Tim Shallcross, IAM RoadSmart’s head of technical policy, reports,  “What is clear is that the ferocious thrash metal really reduced the ability of the driver to get around the track smoothly. That, and high-energy dance music are designed to be felt as well as heard and to be listened to at volume. It’s clear neither help when it comes to making exacting driving maneuvers.”

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