From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

“Ride of the Valkyries” Joins Saucy Billboards as Dangerous Driver Distraction

Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” has joined saucy billboards on the list of menaces. The studies contribute to ergonomics research focused on road safety and provide drivers with a useful list of “don’t.”

Research published in November by Privilege Insurance in Britian revealed the dangers of roadside ads of models wearing little more than a smile. It also suggested that flashing warning signs, billboards and holiday decorations snatch the attention of 83 percent of United Kingdom drivers away from the roads. An earlier Privilege Insurance study showed chilling figures for drivers fiddling with in-car gadgets, from CD players and navigation equipment to sun roof controls. Almost half of drivers in Britain say they have lost concentration after being distracted by accessories, with a fifth admitting they have been so distracted when fiddling with an instrument in their car’s cockpit that they veered out of lane.

In an article with German broadcaster DPA, the online European publication Expatica reported in November that some legislators are demanding navigation equipment for cars that can only be programmed while the vehicle is standing. The demands came after an incident in Hamburg where a driver claimed his navigation system directed him down a stairway.

The Expatica-DPA article features research that concludes drivers who want to arrive safely should not listen to Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” or argue with anyone in the vehicle. Germany’s ACE auto association quoted a recent poll by Emnid research identifying in-car arguments and picking up a cell phone as dangerous distractions. The reports also feature a study by Britain’s Royal Automobile Club (RAC) that blacklists 10 music titles. Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” tops the list. The RAC quoted researchers at the Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, who found drivers are distracted by the loud and quick pace of Wagner, which lowered reaction time in a critical situation by up to 20 percent. The Canadian researchers say listeners experience a faster heart rate and increased blood pressure, regardless of the type of music, if music is above 60 beats per minute.

But listening to music isn’t always a dangerous distraction. Guenther Rotter, Professor of Music Sciences at the University of Dortmund in Germany, studied 1,300 drivers listening to different music while observing traffic situations in a simulator. Interviewed for the Expatica-DPA article, he recommended switching off the radio in town but listening to music with moderate stimulation and volume on long uncomplicated drives.

Sources: Privilege Insurance; Expatica with DPA