A new study says that listening to heavy metal in the vehicle may lead to distraction and bad driving behavior. Somewhere Sammy Hagar is saying, “I told you so.”
An experiment run by IAM Roadsmart and motor magazine Auto Express set out to discover the effects of listening to various music on driver behavior and safety, comparing tracks from Slipknot’s “(sic)” to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” to Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” to Johann Sebastian Bach’s classical piece “Goldberg Variations”.
The results state that the heavier and more extreme music caused the driver to be more erratic and dangerous compared to mellow classical music, which actually resulted in the driver being too relaxed. In the end, pop music proved to be the ideal balance for controlled driving — something to think about next time your Uber driver is blaring the local pop radio station.
Consumer reporter Tristan Shale-Hester took to the Grand Prix track Red Bull Ring in Austria, executing two laps of various acceleration, cornering, and speed challenges, ending with a controlled stop at the finish line — all while listening to the four songs of music at full volume (emphasis on “full volume”).
While listening to Slipknot, Shale-Hester’s time was a whopping 14 seconds slower than his control lap and much more erratic than the other tests. The piece by Bach made him 12 seconds slower than the control lap; Kendrick’s song resulted in a bad finish past the line; and the Taylor Swift lap was the “smoothest in terms of speed consistency.”
“What is clear is that the ferocious thrash metal really reduced the ability of the driver to get around the track smoothly,” IAM Roadsmart Head of Technical Policy Tim Shallcross said in the article. “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.”
He added: “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!”
Metal fans should take the findings with a grain of salt: What isn’t mentioned in IAM Roadsmart’s article is Shale-Hester’s preference in music, which essentially can’t be controlled as part of such an experiment, especially one so dependent on the subject’s own musical habits. That said, it is probably not advisable for anyone to listen to “(sic)” at max volume in their car, both for the sake of their hearing and driving.