Can playlists quell road rage?

August 8, 2014

A European car rental company has developed a playlist to combat the stresses drivers face while on the go — especially those that lead to road rage, reports FastCo. Founded on research about how music can contribute to drivers’ relaxation or focus, Sounds for Driving is a compilation of seven new songs designed for drivers to play when faced with traffic jams, night driving, and lengthy road trips, among other behind-the-wheel situations.

Child with road rage

Music can help modulate drivers’ reactions to common situations on the road, according to researchers. From Robert S. Donovan.

Music composer Håkan Lidbo and researcher Martin Ljungdahl Eriksson, who studies music’s effect on the brain, worked together on the compilation. Lidbo created a steady, fast song designed for driving in the city, “based on studies showing that a particular rhythm can help people concentrate in complex situations,” reports FastCo.

Plenty of drivers have experienced it or been on the receiving end of it. But, for the blissfully uninitiated, what is road rage? The NHTSA calls it “an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway.” A similar problem, aggressive driving — which includes speeding, improper or excessive lane-changing, failing to signal, improper passing, and other offenses — is even more common.

While it’s difficult to quantify the damaging effects of road rage and aggressive driving, certain dangerous driver behaviors, such as speeding, exert a real impact on the road. As the National Safety Council notes, “The economic cost to society due to speeding-related crashes is estimated to be $40.4 billion per year—$76,865 per minute or $1,281 per second.” Speeding also contributed to 30 percent of deadly crashes in 2011.

Other tactics for preventing aggressive driving include reducing your own aggressive behaviors: keeping emotions in check; planning ahead and leaving room for potential delays; and focusing on your own driving, notes the National Safety Council. Drivers can also avoid tailgating or flashing lights at another driver; allowing drivers to pass, and using the horn only when necessary.

Avoid others’ aggressive driving: don’t make eye contact with angry drivers; give other cars plenty of room on the road; refrain from making inappropriate gestures; and call 911 if concerned for your safety. There are financial reasons to avoid aggressive driving, too, reports the Council. Speeding, braking, and rapid acceleration all contribute to extra gas use. Driving sensibly can lower mileage by 33 percent on the highway and five percent on local roads, with a savings of $0.18 to $1.19 per gallon.

New research does suggest that music exerts a calming effect on drivers’ brains. In fact, one study from last year found that “during high-demand drives, drivers are calmed more effectively using abrupt music changes compared to gradual music changes. This is illustrated by reductions in physiological arousal and improved driving behavior. Hence, in-car music presentation can be used as a tool to improve driver’s mood and behavior.”

Listen to Sounds For Driving online, available on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud.

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Category: Automotive, Road safety

About the Author ()

Katy is a writer, reporter and editor who, in addition to writing for RoadTrafficSigns, has worked with the United Nations Development Programme, Hamptons magazine, Hearst Corporation, The Daily Mail, People Magazine, and a variety of other publications and nonprofits. After graduating with honors from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and distinctions on her thesis and in the consumer journalism seminar, she moved to Milan, Italy. In Italy, she worked as a writer and consultant for an international magazine, editing and translating text and reporting on such events as the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the annual design fair. A born and raised New Yorker, she has lived in three of five boroughs, relying quite a bit on public transport until getting her driver's license at the admittedly belated age of 21.

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