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May 18, 2021

Want To Stay Safe On The Road? Don't Wear Headphones

Headphones can be a great way to listen to music or podcasts, helping cyclists enjoy the best sound experiences without interruptions. Many people also find that headphones can help them to concentrate or relax by blocking background noise and distractions.

However, wearing headphones while on the road—as a driver, cyclist, rider, or pedestrian—can also be dangerous. In some countries, it is even illegal.

To find out just how dangerous it is, Ford commissioned a study and found that people listening on headphones are, on average, more than four seconds slower to identify potential road hazards than when not listening to music.

The study employed a specially developed ‘8D’ spatial sound experience that placed more than 2,000 participants from across Europe into an immersive virtual street and measured their reaction times in potentially hazardous situations. After undertaking the experience, most participants said they would not wear headphones on the move again.

The Ford-commissioned research investigated the road use and listening habits of more than 2,000 people from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K., asking about their attitudes to risk while driving, cycling, walking, or riding a scooter.

Most of those who took part said they listen to headphones while on the move; among the 56 percent of people who report having been involved in a near miss or an accident, 27 percent were wearing headphones at the time.

In the study, the participants’ reaction times to these hazards was measured across three different scenarios, both with music playing through the wearer’s headphones and without. On average, participants were 4.2 seconds slower to identify and respond to a hazard on the road when music was playing.

Before the experience, 44 percent of people said they would not wear headphones while on the move; afterwards, 58 percent made a commitment never to wear them again—an increase of 31 percent. Meanwhile, 64 percent fewer said they would listen to headphones regularly while on the road.

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