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Did you know that the radio causes accidents?

September 22, 2018

Many things cause car accidents in Kentucky, from drunk driving to distracted driving to a simple lack of experience that causes young drivers to make mistakes. After all, one very small error can lead to a deadly crash when everyone is traveling at 60 miles per hour.

What you may be surprised to learn, however, is that music can actually lead to car accidents. It seems like everyone you know has the radio on when they drive — or, in more modern terms, they listen to podcasts, playlists or streaming services. If you ride with someone in the car in silence, it feels odd and potentially awkward.

Still, as common as it is, music is a serious distraction.

The test

Researchers decided to test this, specifically looking at the impact on teen drivers. They put them behind the wheel, giving them three different conditions: silence, an instrumental playlist and the option to play their own music. Researchers then observed the results to see how these things impacted the teens’ ability to drive over 40-minute periods.

Louder music

The first thing they noticed is that teens turned their own playlists up louder than the instrumental music that instructors provided for them. This could make it more of a distraction. It also shows that they put more focus on that music and did not view it as mere background noise.

Better moods

As expected, teens preferred their own music. When asked about their moods while driving, they said they were in a better mood with their own playlists. Researchers said that their moods were “significantly higher.”


The key to the study came when looking at distractions and mistakes. It became clear that teens who listened to their own music made far more errors than those listening to the instrumental playlist or listening to nothing at all. These errors included issues like weaving all over the road, breaking the speed limit and driving in an aggressive manner.

Eighty-five people participated in the study, and every single one of them made a minimum of three significant safety errors.

How bad was it? It 27 cases, the instructors had to issue verbal warnings to the drivers. In 17 cases, the instructors had to actively hit the brakes or steer the vehicle to keep the teen from crashing.

The risk

As you can see, the risk is high for other drivers on the road. In the controlled experiment, researchers prevented accidents, but many teens drive on their own or with friends. Even with this small sample group, just listening to music alone could have caused 17 wrecks and many potential injuries.

If you get hurt in an accident with a distracted driver, make sure you understand all of your legal options.