Listening To Heavy Metal Is Bad For Driver Behavior, New Study Finds

James Hetfield Driving

According to a new study, listening to heavy metal in the car is bad for driver behavior.

The experiment, carried out by road safety body IAM Roadsmart and motoring magazine Auto Express, set out to discover the effects of different types of music on driving style and safety using everything from SLIPKNOT‘s “(sic)” to Taylor Swift‘s “Shake It Off”.

According to the results, metal distracted the test subject and made their driving inputs more ragged and uncontrolled, while classical tunes encouraged too much relaxation and slowed drivers’ progress.

For the study, Auto Express and IAM RoadSmart used the high-tech racing rig at simulator experts Base Performance Simulators near Banbury, where drivers from the world’s top racing series go to hone their skills.

The findings from the research are published in the latest issue of Auto Express.

During the test, consumer reporter Tristan Shale-Hester was tasked with undertaking two simulated precision laps of the Grand Prix track Red Bull Ring in Austria while listening to songs at full volume from four different genres of music — extreme metal, hip-pop, classical and pop.

The two-lap test involved fast acceleration, a series of technically challenging corners and a speed-limited zone, completed by a controlled stop on the finish line at the end of the second lap.

After setting a control lap time with no music of four minutes 34 seconds, Tristan tried the same test again while listening to “(sic)” by SLIPKNOT.

Tristan was a staggering 14 seconds slower and his throttle movements were far more jagged while listening to the metal compared to the control lap, and admitted listening to SLIPKNOTmade it harder to concentrate on the circuit layout.

Tristan made his next attempt listening to classical music, with the dulcet tones of Bach‘s “Goldberg Variations” on his headphones. But while  Tristan‘s driving was better with Bach than with SLIPKNOT, he was 12 seconds slower than his control lap, dropping his speed to just 35mph in a 50mph zone without noticing.

Then came “Shake It Off” by Taylor SwiftTristan‘s time when listening to the bouncy pop classic was only two seconds slower than his control time, and IAM RoadSmart expert Tim Shallcross said that it was on this test that Tristan‘s laps were “smoothest in terms of speed consistency.”

Finally came the complex hip-hop song “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar; although driving to this helped Tristan to a time just one second slower than the control lap, it caused him to overshoot the finish line by four car lengths — a potentially dangerous 60-70ft.

Steve Fowler, editor-in-chief of Auto Express said: “Much of the focus around distracted driving is on using a handheld mobile behind the wheel, and rightly so. But Auto Express‘s joint research with IAM RoadSmart shows that as well as making a conscious decision to put their phone away when driving, motorists should also think carefully about what music they listen to.

“While heavy metal was clearly linked to Tristan‘s worst lap, classical music fans may be interested to learn that some pieces appear to promote too deep a state of relaxation to be listened to when behind the wheel.”

TimIAM RoadSmart head of technical policy, added: “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.

“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!”