By Aaron Crowe
Nothing gets your heart pumping like a good song. The lyrics to a Bruce Springsteen song or the pop song of the month might stay in your head all day, but the joy of listening to a fun song in the car can be expressed while you’re driving.
That could be good — making a long drive more enjoyable — or it could give you a lead foot and a speeding ticket.
Researchers in the United Kingdom found that certain songs, and certain types of songs, resulted in more accidents, and others gave drivers more concentration to be focused on the road.
The survey points out that the “golden oldies” were the most popular driving songs, and that types of music thought to have a relaxing effect on the listener didn’t lead to a more tempered driving style.
Blues fans were found to be the most likely to be caught speeding, followed by listeners to country, reggae, rap and hip hop, classical, and easy listening music.
Country music listeners were most likely to have an accident, followed by classical, easy listening, reggae, blues, and rock and pop.
Drivers who listened to talk-radio or nothing were found to be more focused on the road, with only 22% admitted to having a minor accident, compared to 78% of drivers who listen to music.
Everyone has their favorite songs to drive to, and what may lead to speeding for one person may calm another to drive slowly.
Former traffic school teacher Walter Meyer remembers hearing often the excuse from young drivers that “this really great song came on the radio and I sort of lost track of things and suddenly I was speeding,” Meyer wrote in an email.
But one of his elderly students had an interesting excuse: “It wasn’t my fault, it was Glenn Miller’s.” The song “American Patrol” came on the radio, and having grown up a Big Band fan, she couldn’t resist driving fast to the peppy song.
Meyer’s advice to his students who insisted on driving when drowsy was to avoid familiar music or music they liked that could easily lull them to sleep. He suggested listening to music they don’t know — such as rap or country — to keep them more alert and not allow them to get lost in a song they don’t know.
Music tastes are subjective, but we wanted to offer our own suggestions — with some help from music fans — for the best and worst songs to drive to. We don’t have any proof that they’ll lead to fewer accidents or speeding tickets, but they’re worth considering to either keep in the car turn them off if they come on the radio.
10 best songs to drive to
1. “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. The entire album is great, and all of the songs are great to drive to, but “Born to Run” is fun to sing to and drive fast. Just don’t get caught.
2. “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash. Yes, go, but don’t drive too fast.
3. “Radar Love” by Golden Earring. Suggested by Ann Marie van den Hurk, a public relations executive, this song has a beat that catches you from the start and may give you a reason to look out for radar detectors.
5. “Just What I Needed” by The Cars. Another song that’s easy to sing to. Jennifer Vanderslice, who suggested this song, remembers driving when she was 17 to this hit song and getting a heavy foot. She drove too fast around a curve and had to swerve to avoid hitting a car, but the rear of her car slammed into a mud hill on the other side of the road. A good memory, though her accident is a reminder to not hit the gas when a good song comes on the radio.
6. “Pump It Up” by Elvis Costello. It has nothing to do with pumping gas, but this peppy song puts Jennifer Towner, who suggested it, in a good mood while driving.
7. “25 Miles” by Edwin Starr. It’s a song about a man walking 25 miles to see his lady, but it’s still a good song about being on the road and watching the miles tick away, says fan April Whitney, an entertainment publicist at Chronicle Books.
9. “Girls Lie Too” by Terri Clark. Many country songs are good to sing to, but this one hits the spot.
10 worst songs to drive to
1. “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC. Another song suggested by Goodall in his informal survey of readers. The reasons should be self-explanatory.
2. “I Can’t Drive 55” by Sammy Haggar. Another self-explanatory song that could lead to driving too fast and may not help your case if a police officer pulls you over for speeding.
3. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard. The song is popular in strip clubs, but it’s not safe in the car “due to the extreme urge to throw your hair all over the place any gyrate,” says Sharon Rosenblatt. Lesson: Don’t headbang in a car.
4. “Summer In The City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful. It’s a great song, says Steve Silberberg, but any song with car horns blowing or ambulance noises is bad because drivers can mistake it for the real thing.
5. “Bat Out Of Hell” by Meat Loaf. This was the top song in the UK study cited above that led to blues music listeners to get speeding tickets.
6. “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf. It’s a great song, no doubt, but it’s so good and catchy that it could lead to fast driving and accidents.
7. “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. An excellent song but a title you don’t want to explain to an officer if you’re stopped for speeding.
8. “Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.” Classical music was cited in the UK survey as leading to minor accidents. Could it be because fans were cranking the sound so hard and driving so fast to this song that they weren’t paying attention to the road?
9. “One Piece at a Time” by Johnny Cash. You can’t beat Johnny Cash for great country music. But remember that in the UK study, country music was high in leading to accidents and speeding. This song is about a man who stole a car one piece at a time from the GM plant he worked at. Be careful not to let your singing along lead to carelessness.
10. “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz. A strong beat that may be a little too strong for potential speeders.
That’s our list. What’s yours?