We overlook the dangers of music while driving

Using music streaming apps serves as a dangerous distraction while driving

As college students, we are consistently reminded of the dangers of texting while driving. We are overwhelmed with advertisements attempting to scare us straight. However, nobody seems to consider the danger of listening to music while driving.

Texting and driving has become prevalent in the last few years due to its ease and our social media-oriented culture, especially among millennials. This has proven to be a detrimental issue, so much so that there are countless commercials and laws dedicated to spreading awareness.

Music is a huge part of our social lives as college students, and jamming while cruising with our friends is a part of everyday life. What many students do not consider is that music can be just as dangerous as texting while driving.

“At the moment, we spend a lot of time focusing on technology when we talk about distracted driving and that’s everything from obviously being on the phone and talking, to texting itself and now also (music) in the car,” Diana Bowman, associate professor at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, said. “Music has traditionally been a part of the driving experience, so people don’t necessarily think about how that might impact their driving and their awareness of the road.”

Many people nowadays have the option to connect their phones to their cars via Bluetooth or an auxiliary cord. Furthermore, with so many music streaming apps and playlists available on our phones, more and more people are straying away from using the radio.

College students prefer to hop on the aux and browse through custom playlists to find the perfect song because songs on the radio are either overplayed, or not catered to their tastes. With so many options, distracted driving becomes a huge issue. One study found that young people who listened to music while driving have a higher likelihood of distraction and oversight. 

Done safely, listening to music in the car through streaming apps is not a problem. It only becomes a problem when we keep glancing at our phones to sift through songs or continuously skip through a playlist. 

This can especially be a problem on and around big universities like ASU, because there are so many pedestrians, especially during popular events like football games or First Friday. If drivers are distracted looking for music, the risk of an accident is much higher. 

“When we look at student population, especially students around the campus, music can be a huge distraction that takes their attention away from other road users," Bowman said. "Whether it’s singing along with music in your car, or even if you’re on your bicycle and you have earplugs in listening to music, you can be focusing more on the enjoyment side of the music rather than focusing on the cyclists and skateboarders and other road users around you.” 

The only way to fix this issue is to take the initiative and become more conscious drivers.

“A really good first step is to encourage all drivers to be aware of their surroundings at all times," Bowman said. "It’s important to do that because things happen so quickly on the road and can have dramatic, sometimes deadly consequences.”

There are also many apps and features on our phones that restrict us from using our phones while our vehicles are moving. It is easy to overlook these features because they are optional, but just because no one is making you use the feature, does not mean they shouldn’t.

We can’t depend on laws like the ones against texting while driving to help us. Although it would be ideal to pass such laws, it’s not always easy to do so.

“Other activities in the car (like) listening to music, it’s a lot harder to the get evidence needed to pass the legislation to restrict those activities,” Bowman said. “I think this is where more focus has to be on the individual and the individual’s behavior in the car rather than thinking legislation can solve this, so paying attention and being aware of where you are relative to other road users is a very important first step.”

At the end of the day, you don’t have to give up Frank Ocean or Adele to be a better driver. Just remember that when you want to hit the skip button or scroll through your playlist, you could potentially be putting yourself and others at risk.

Driving is already dangerous and unpredictable – music should not perpetuate its risks.

Reach the columnist at tkallye@asu.edu or follow on Twitter @trwscuit.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the  author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its  editors. 

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