Does Listening to the Radio Affect Our Driving?

Most people would agree that listening to the radio is almost as much a part of driving as the actual driving. The two seem to go together like a hand and a glove. Whenever Im driving, particularly on road trips, I crank up the tunes before I hit the road. But according to new research, listening to the radio while driving may not be the best idea.

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Dublin, Ireland, listening to the radio while driving has a significant impact on whether we see an unexpected animal cross our path. Using a driving simulator, the researchers specifically assessed how likely we were to see a gorilla or elephant crossing our path while driving with the radio on.

Perhaps these were not the best animal choices as few of us are ever likely to come across gorillas or elephants on our path. Instead, were far more likely to come across pedestrians, deer, cyclists, dogs or cats, but the study results make the point.

Thirty-six drivers participated in the preliminary study. Half of the participants listened to the radio and were asked to listen for a switch from a male traffic reporter to a female traffic reporter, which is considered a task requiring minimal attention. The other half were asked to pay attention to traffic updates on a specific road, which is considered a task that requires far more attention. It would be fairly common to assume that regardless which task the drivers were given theyd be able to notice a giant animal like a gorilla or elephant on the sidewalk, but the study results suggest otherwise.

Seventy-one percent of the first group with the minimal attention task were able to spot the giant mammals but in the higher attention task group, only 23 percent even noticed the elephant or gorilla. Additionally, the researchers noticed that the group performing the higher attention task were less likely to observe yield signals, recall vehicles they had passed, or be aware of their speed or reaction time to hazards.

The researchers indicated that audio information seems to interfere with our ability to register visual information and that paying attention to something other than our driving has a significant impact on how observant we are while performing this important task.

Obviously the size of the study group was small and further research with larger groups will yield more statistically accurate results, but it shines a light on the problems of distracted driving. And the radio tasks assessed during the study seem minor in comparison to talking on the phone or texting while driving, applying makeup, reading a map or GPS or eating or drinking while on the go.

Id be curious to see how poorly people drive while conducting any of these other tasks, yet Im always surprised at just how many people regularly participate in extracurricular activities outside of the essential task of driving.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is an international best-selling and 19-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, and Cooking (New World Library, 2016).

98 comments

Wendi M.
Wendi Mabout a year ago

Her hee my Mother listens to talk radio and seriously she sits off the sound on the left side speakers and I asked my Ex why he thought she did that he said 'it's like someone is talking to her while she is driving'

Oh now that is scary

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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M. M.
M. Mabout a year ago

Because I have a car with some age... I usually don't listen to radio... I prefer to "listen" my car... just in case some issue happens... old cars do complain using sounds! ;-)

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Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

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Belinda Lang
Belinda Langabout a year ago

I have the radio on while driving, because I don't like to drive and I find that the music soothes me One station with my kind of music is all I need.. I notice dead and live animals ahead as well as pedestrians jaywalking.

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Carol S.
Carol Sabout a year ago

I only change stations or cds, etc wen I am stopped at a light or stop sign. Drive safely!

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgenabout a year ago

Thank you

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Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

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luna starr
luna starrabout a year ago

when a song is on i love,i do crank it up

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