Is there a correlation between heavy metal music and having a "lead foot" behind the wheel? Research from Auto Express magazine and road safety charity IAM Roadsmart seems to indicate so.

A recent study was held to see how different types of music affect drivers behind the wheel, with the results suggesting that metal could push motorists to the extremes, while classical music went the other direction, perhaps being so serene that the relaxation lapses concentration. Meanwhile, pop music appeared to be the happy medium, with drivers most often experiencing a smooth and controlled driving environment.

In a study to discover the effects of different types of music on driving style and safety, Auto Express and IAM RoadSmart used the high-tech racing rig at simulator experts Base Performance Simulators near Banbury, where drivers from the world’s top racing series go to hone their skills. During the test, consumer reporter Tristan Shale-Hester was tasked with undertaking two simulated precision laps of the Grand Prix track Red Bull Ring in Austria while listening to songs at full volume from four different genres of music – thrash metal, hip-pop, classical and pop.

The two-lap test involved fast acceleration, a series of technically challenging corners and a speed-limited zone, completed by a controlled stop on the finish line at the end of the second lap. After setting a control lap time with no music of four minutes 34 seconds, Tristan tried the same test again while listening to Slipknot's rocker "(sic)." Tristan was 14 seconds slower and his throttle movements were far more jagged while listening to the metal compared to the control lap, and the driver admitted listening to Slipknot made it harder to concentrate on the circuit layout.

Steve Fowler, editor-in-chief of Auto Express said: “Much of the focus around distracted driving is on using a handheld mobile behind the wheel, and rightly so. But Auto Express’s joint research with IAM RoadSmart shows that as well as making a conscious decision to put their phone away when driving, motorists should also think carefully about what music they listen to.

Tim, IAM Roadsmart's head of technical policy, added, “What is clear is that the ferocious thrash metal really reduced the ability of the driver to get around the track smoothly. That, and high-energy dance music, are designed to be felt as well as heard, and to be listened to at volume. It's clear neither help when it comes to making exacting driving maneuvers."

He continued, "Volume is the major factor for concentration and has a big effect. I would certainly advise drivers to dial down the noise when making a maneuver – and save the thrash metal for later in the day, or night!”

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