TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Drivers are hitting the roads in droves for holiday travel. Whether it’s to get to the airport or to make the long haul to see family, tis’ the season to travel and that means drivers need to be extra safe on the road.
Music is always a way to stay awake on long trips, but some songs hit different than others. A 2019 study by the South China University of Technology found that songs with faster beats per minute are more likely to cause dangerous driving. Songs with more than 120 bpm are the ones to watch out for.
According to the study, “automobiles have been the most popular location, among others, for music listening” over the past decade. “In-vehicle music listening can induce not only entertainment but also as a stimulus to drivers. This can in turn help mitigate the boredoms and drowsiness of drivers.”
While listening to music in the car can be helpful for staying awake and alert, the study found that songs with higher tempos could also lead to some potentially unsafe conditions while driving, mostly because it can affect the driver’s ability to focus.
“Being a competing stimulus to the driver, in-vehicle music listening could increase the driver’s mental workload, and thus impair the driving performance,” the study said.
Citing data from a 2001 study by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the United States, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the study said that a quarter of road crashes were attributed to distracted driving, with a combination of listening to music or having a conversation with passengers among the reasons for distraction.
In areas with more hills, difficult terrain or lower visibility, like during severe weather or at night, the study found that music might add to the mental workload for a driver and impair their ability to drive safely.
With the study in mind, Chill Insurance in Ireland decided to study popular songs for the holidays, when drivers are on the road more, and rank the top 10 Christmas carols and other holiday songs with the fastest beats per minute, and therefore the most dangerous songs to listen to on the road during the Christmas season.
Familiar favorite Frosty the Snowman was the deadliest by the study’s metric, with a 172 bpm setting up ample potential for distraction on the road. Below, find the Christmas carols that could cause the most crashes during the holiday season, ranked by Chill Insurance.
- Gene Autry, ‘Frosty the Snowman’, 172 BPM
- Mariah Carey, ‘All I want For Christmas’, 150 BPM
- José Feliciano, ‘Feliz Navidad’, 149 BPM
- Jackson 5, ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town’, 147 BPM
- John Lennon and Yoko Ono, ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’, 146 BPM
- Frank Sinatra, ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’, 143 BPM
- Gene Autry, ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, 142 BPM
- Wizzard, ‘I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day’, 140 BPM
- Judy Garland, ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, 137 BPM
- Jackson 5, ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’, 129 BPM
Outside the holidays, the musical genre with the biggest potential effect on driving was rock, according to the South China University of Technology study, based on its “high sound intensity” and higher tempo.
Still, the study also found that driver moods and temperament could also affect the impact of higher-beat music on driving safety, so it’s not just the music that can impair or improve safety on a trip.