Ah, the pleasures of being alone in the car on the open road with a couple of hours of driving ahead of you. The beautiful landscape. The burdens of the mundane flying away. The feeling of control over a powerful engine and a 1t vehicle. You didn’t even notice how quickly one-hour-something passed, being in this blissful state, when suddenly fatigue starts kicking in. The landscape seems monotonous now, your attention level drops, your eyes start moving less frequently.

If you are like most people, you would play some music. Fair enough. The question then is, how fast a music do you play so you fight fatigue and, importantly, also remain focused?

The question is an important one as, as you guessed, fast music increases excitement but it had also been linked to an increase in traffic violations, proneness to collision, and underestimation of your driving speed. On the other hand, could playing no music at all actually work better for you than playing slow-tempo music? A recently published study aimed to answer these very questions.

As it turns out, going for mid-tempo music (about 90 beats per minute) is your best choice. Put simply, you get most of the benefits of playing high-tempo music (120 bpm) while avoiding the downsides of playing low-tempo one (about 40 bpm). 

Why is that? Well, for the first hour or so of driving it doesn’t really matter whether you listen to no music, or you have slow-, mid-, or high-tempo one on. After approximately 80 minutes fatigue starts kicking in and music start doing its magic:

  • With no music your fatigue will, well, increase gradually and your attention will deteriorate. 
  • Now, with slow-tempo music you will actually delay fatigue but after another half an hour you will actually feel more tired compared to not listening to music or listening to music with any other kind of tempo. So slow-tempo music is a no-no it turns out.
  • On the opposite side, fast-tempo music will have the strongest positive effect on fatigue but also the strongest negative impact on attention. So you won’t feel fatigued but you are likely to get distracted.
  • What we are left with is the mid-tempo music: the study shows that you will get both almost the same benefit as listening to fast-tempo music and experience the lowest deterioration of attention. 

Now we know: probably the best way to fight fatigue and remain focused at the same time on a long-distance drive is to listen to mid-tempo music. I hope this insights comes in handy. 

My best wishes for a great day ahead and remember – everything communicates, everything impacts.

Based on: Effect of Music Tempo on Long-Distance Driving: Which Tempo Is the Most Effective at Reducing Fatigue?; Rui Li, Yingjie Chen, and Linghao Zhang; i-PERCEPTION, volume 10, issue 4, pp. 1-19.

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