A quick switch to mellow music in the car may make you a safer driver, researchers say.
Promptly changing to soothing music is the most effective way to calm down while driving in stressful conditions that could trigger road rage, found the study published in the Aug. 30 issue of the journal Ergonomics.
It was already known that music can influence mood and driving styles. More accidents occur when drivers listen to "upbeat" music, possibly because the music is more distracting or because it causes drivers to go faster. Downbeat music is more relaxing and associated with safer driving.
Fewer driving mistakes
However, there were questions about whether a quick or gradual switch from upbeat to downbeat music was most effective in changing drivers' moods. To get answers, researchers had volunteers tackle demanding driving conditions in a simulator while they listened to different types of music.
Participants who switched to more mellow music abruptly or gradually both reached the same levels of calmness eventually. However, those who made the switch quickly became calm sooner and made fewer driving mistakes, according to a journal news release.
The results show that "during high-demand driving, abrupt changes in music led to more physiological calmness and improved driving performance and were thus safer and more effective," concluded researcher Marjolein van der Zwaag, of Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, and colleagues in the Netherlands and at Stanford University in California.
The investigators said their findings could also apply to office or hospital settings to encourage or relax listeners.
The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development outlines solutions to risky driving.