• Ed Sheeran has the second ‘most dangerous’ song with ‘Castle on the Hill’ – which has been lambasted by police for seeming to encourage ‘driving at 90 down those country lanes’(3).
• But Sheeran also hits the safest spot with ‘Perfect’, which has a tempo just above the average human heartbeat – ideal for driving safely.
• Confused.com team up with chartered psychologist whose research shows ‘tempo’ and ‘energy’ are more likely to make you drive faster.
• See where Shawn Mendes, The Chainsmokers and Rag’n’Bone Man ranked using Confused.com’s ‘most dangerous driving songs’ chart.
• A quarter (24%) of drivers who have had an accident or near miss were listening to music at the time of the incident, while one in five (19%) admit they were changing the music or radio.
Stormzy has taken several titles this year, but probably most impressive is landing the top spot for the ‘most dangerous driving song’ of 2017(1,2).
Out of the 40 most streamed songs of the year, research shows ‘Big For Your Boots’ is the song most likely to make you put your foot down when behind the wheel. The grime hit was streamed more than 37 million times, ranking 34th in the top 40, but came out top in Confused.com’s ‘most dangerous’ driving songs chart. The track has a high energy rating of 0.9 (ranked from 0 to 1) and tempo of 175 beats per minute (bpm), which is more than double the average heartbeat. And the research shows fast-paced tempos can raise a person’s pulse to mimic that of the beat of the song.
Other most-streamed hits feature in the chart, including ‘Castle on the Hill’ by Ed Sheeran, which came second place. The hit features the lyrics “driving at 90 [mph] down those country lanes”, which were lambasted by UK police traffic officers earlier this year, leading to a warning for motorists to slow down(3). Worryingly, this is the third most streamed song of 2017, with more than 83,500,000 streams.
The pop singer also features at the opposite end of the scale and is crowned for the ‘safest’ driving song of the year with ‘Perfect’, which was the 11th most streamed song of the year, with more than 48,000,000 streams. The love song has a much lower tempo at just 95 bpm – much closer to the beat of a human heart, which is 50-80 bpm on average – and a 0.45 energy rating, making it the perfect song to drive to.
To understand what makes a song “dangerous” to drive to, Confused.com, the driver savings site, teamed up with chartered psychologist and former lecturer at London Metropolitan University, Dr Simon Moore. In his psychological research into the impact of music on driving safety, Dr Moore identified fast tempos as having the ability to make the heart beat faster. This can lead to the human brain becoming overwhelmed with excitement and carelessness. He recommends music with the tempo mirroring that of a human heartbeat as ideal for listening to in order to stay alert and responsive when on the road. In his report, Dr Moore also explores how the familiarity, mood, rhythm and loudness of a track can lead a song to be dangerously distracting. Based on this, Confused.com created a formula(1) which combines a song’s tempo and energy to determine its dangerousness.
To find out just how dangerous some of the year’s most popular songs are to drive to, Confused.com took the formula and ranked the top 40 streamed songs in an interactive table and chart. Featuring some of the top artists from 2017, including Rag’n’Bone Man, The Chainsmokers, Shawn Mendes and Maggie Lindeman, the ‘most dangerous’ songs chart allows users to find out how each track ranks in terms of tempo and energy. Users can also click on their favourite track and stream it via Spotify. Scrolling down, the interactive page dives into the safety threat across 14 different genres, including popular driving rock anthems, hip hop, jazz, reggae and metal.
Listening to music in the car is something which most drivers do without giving much thought to how it might impact their driving. And further research by Confused.com found that more than half (53%) of UK drivers have in fact had an accident or near-miss while behind the wheel, almost a quarter (24%) of which say they were listening to music at the time. But accidents are not only caused by listening to music, as almost one in five (19%) motorists admit they have had an accident or near-miss as a result of changing their music or radio while driving.
And as explained by Dr Simon Moore, the increase in heart rate can cause a driver to become careless, which is a great concern while behind the wheel and a potential cause or factor in the case of an accident. In fact, almost half (48%) of UK drivers find their heart rate increases while listening to fast paced songs, in particular rock (20%), heavy metal (8%) and pop (7%) music.
However, drivers aren’t likely to be whizzing around anytime soon, according to the top song choice. Almost one in 10 (9%) motorists say they would most like to listen to ‘Perfect’ by Ed Sheeran while driving, which we already know is the safest song featured on the chart. Other popular driving songs, as voted for by motorists, include ‘Human’ by Rag’n’Bone man (8%) and ‘Shape of You’ (4%), also by Ed Sheeran, which was also the most streamed song of the year.
Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, says: “This year has seen some amazing hits, including Stormzy and Ed Sheeran which have both been streamed millions of times. Everyone loves listening to music in the car but our research shows that it is possible to become distracted.
“While everyone loves belting out their favourite tune, if you ever find yourself being distracted while behind the wheel, maybe consider switching to a mellower playlist.”
Notes to editors
Unless otherwise stated all statistics were obtained from a survey to 2,000 UK motorists. The survey ran between 15th December and 19th December 2017.
1. Confused.com has developed the following formula based on research which shows how the effects of music tempo can have on heart rate and driving performance: sqrt(tempo^2+(200*energy)^2). Using this formula, Confused.com ranked the most-streamed songs of 2017 with by tempo and energy. For the purposes of Confused.com’s “most dangerous driving songs chart”, ‘dangerous songs’ are ranked as above 100bpm and higher than 0.8 in energy. The ‘safest songs’ will have the lowest number, provided they are below 100bpm and 0.8 in energy. Further reading available here: http://in.bgu.ac.il/humsos/art/DocLib/Pages/Scientific-Publications-warren/17_TRF.pdf. Data for ‘most streamed songs’ sourced from publicly available Spotify API.
2. All information provided is based on psychological theory. ‘Most dangerous’ and ‘safest’ are labels for the purposes of this piece, ‘dangerous songs’ are all songs ranked as above 100bpm and higher than 0.8 in energy.
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