Driving is stressful – more than it’s ever been, in fact. Our new study found that eight in 10 (82%) of drivers reported having an episode of either aggressive driving (deliberate unsafe behaviors, like not using a blinker, tailgating, or weaving between lanes) or road rage (extreme aggressive driving, like making obscene gestures, sideswiping, or purposefully ramming into another car) over the past year.
Not every drive includes an episode of road rage, of course, but many people say that their stress levels spike when they’re behind the wheel. Thirty-five percent of survey respondents said that driving made them feel more frustrated than they usually do. So what can drivers do to stay cool during their commutes?
We asked survey participants what they do to alleviate stress, and one solution emerged head and shoulders (and ears?) above the rest: Music.
A whopping 62% of people said that when driving jangled their nerves, the fastest road to relaxation was turning on some tunes. (Coming in second and third were thinking about something else, at 23%, and yelling or cursing, with 22%. Hey, whatever works.)
Listening to music has been repeatedly proven to lower stress levels. Research has shown it can reduce levels of stress hormones, lessen pain, and improve cardiovascular health. And, a recent study confirmed that tuning in is helpful behind the wheel specifically; it found that the heart health of relatively inexperienced (and perhaps nervous) drivers was measurably better when they played soothing music.
The key word there? “Soothing.” One needs to listen to the right music; while hair metal might be relaxing for some, experts note that just any old playlist won’t do.