Rebecca Bernard
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Do Audiobooks Contribute to Distracted Driving?

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Audiobook headphones with book

We all do things to help us get through long road trips or clogged traffic. Is it possible that listening to an audiobook could be not only distracting you from boredom but from the road itself?

I’ll admit to being an avid audiobook listener as I drive. As someone who hates long drives, I rely on audiobooks to keep me alert between cups of coffee.* From classics like Pride and Prejudice to newer books like The City We Became, I appreciate that I can continue my current read while my car racks up the miles. However, I’ve never considered that I could be putting myself in danger.


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Encouraging study

Scientists have looked into how audiobook affects your driving and the results are a bit surprising. Researcher Robert J.Nowosielski from The University of Guelph in Canada conducted a study where he had participants listen to audiobooks and navigate different driving environments in a simulator. Their reaction times were then compared to non-reading drivers. When presented with simple driving situations with few curves and stops, audiobook listeners actually had a faster response time to issues than the control group. However, that advantage disappeared when the road was a bit more complicated, or pedestrians were involved. 

Follow the law

That might sound slightly encouraging, but that’s not the whole story. Many states have laws that limit or fully prohibit cellphone use, which makes controlling an audiobook behind the wheel difficult. While you can start the audiobook before your drive and sometimes control it with your voice or steering wheel, it can walk a fine line of legality. 


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Before you decide to commit to listening to audiobooks on your drive, make sure you think honestly about how engrossed you get in an audiobook. You might want to make progress on the latest cliffhanger in your To Be Read pile, but no book is with putting your life in danger. 

*I also am known to belt out Broadway soundtracks when things are really boring. Sorry, Indiana