Listening to Radio Can Lead to Distracted Driving

Couple looking at each other while drivingSimply listening to traffic reports on the radio can negatively affect drivers’ concentration, according to a study presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference.

According to the United States Department of Transportation, distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents. In 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in distraction-related car accidents. Approximately 660,000 people are using electronic devices while driving at any given moment in the U.S. Many states have responded to this distraction rate by enacting legislation limiting the use of electronics. Forty-six states currently ban texting while driving, but none limit radio use.

How Radios Distract Drivers

For the study, researchers asked 36 drivers to “drive” in a large driving simulator while listening to radio traffic updates. Eighteen participants were asked to complete a “simple” task, during which they listened for the moment the voice on the radio changed from male to female. The other 18 participants had to complete a more “complex” task of listening for news updates about a specific road.

To test the drivers’ distraction, researchers added a large elephant or gorilla sitting on the side of the road. Just 23% of drivers engaged in the complex task noticed the animal, compared to 71% engaged in the simpler task. Drivers listening for information about a specific road also struggled to remember other events, such as which car had passed them. They were less likely to obey traffic signs, showed slower reaction times, and had fewer safe driving habits.

Is Keeping Your Eyes on the Road Enough?

Lead researcher Gillian Murphy says safe driving campaigns designed to keep drivers’ eyes on the road may not be enough. Simply listening for important information can be sufficient distraction for many drivers. Even when drivers appear to be focusing on driving, their minds might be elsewhere.


  1. Cellular phone use and texting while driving laws. (2016, March 10). Retrieved from
  2. Facts and statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Listening to the radio could impair drivers’ concentration. (2016, April 25). Retrieved from
  4. Newman, T. (2016, May 2). Does listening to the radio make driving more dangerous? Retrieved from

© Copyright 2016 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Jody

    May 9th, 2016 at 4:21 PM

    But this is what usually keeps me awake!
    the phone? Okay yeah I see it that this would distract you.
    But please, not the radio

  • Renn

    May 10th, 2016 at 1:57 PM

    Come on, the radio is a fun little ya to pass the time in the car. I don’t believe that it will make you distracted unless you are just all out going crazy in the car, and I think that most of us are going to be way more responsible than that when we are out driving.

  • Massey

    May 10th, 2016 at 3:41 PM

    Ok I had to read this a little more thoroughly. Yeah something like the news or a traffic report, I can zone out on those so I could see myself not paying attention like I should to driving, maybe drifting off and thinking about something else totally unrelated.

  • Kate

    May 12th, 2016 at 10:34 AM

    My solution?
    Change the channel until you can find something a little more peppy and upbeat or either put in a CD that you love. The news might get all boring but nothing is better than a bunch of great tunes in a row to perk you up.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.


* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.