– Tony Schaefer
Consider this: stores and restaurants almost always have some type of music playing. Multiple studies have shown that when stores play popular songs, shoppers spend more time thinking about the music and less time focusing on shopping. Restaurants will play mildly faster-paced music during high-volume periods so patrons will eat and leave faster allowing them to turn more tables. When retail stores play classical music, shoppers are more likely to make high-ticket purchases; slow music creates a relaxed feeling and shoppers are inclined to spend more.
Musical scores set the pace and emotional tone for movies, plays, and commercials. Music impacts us in ways that are obvious and understood as well as in ways that are subtle and confusing. So why, then, would we disregard the music we listen to when we are driving?
If I haven’t convinced you yet – and if you didn’t know where I was going with this – music not only can affect the way you drive, music directly affects the way you drive even though you are not aware of it. Except you are now; so let’s talk about it.
From the opening paragraph, you should have picked up on two ways music impacts you: subtle/subconscious and distracting. Let’s talk subtle first.
Fast-paced music is going to make you want to drive fast. There, I said it. It really is that easy. Hard-pounding, fast-paced music is going to turn you into a hard-driving, fast-paced driver. If your goal is hypermiling, then you really need to relax, stay calm, and not be easily excited. While it’s easy to suggest tuning into your local classical music radio station, you have no control over whether they are playing a soothing string quartet or a hard-hitting piano piece.
This is why I suggest creating your own playlist of soft and soothing music. Wait! Don’t go! It’s not permanent; I promise. Just for a little while as you get the hang of hypermiling. However, to be effective, it should be for more than a commute or two. The key is to music in the background that does not generate an emotional response. Something that just trickles in the background and keeps you on an even keel. It doesn’t even have to be classical.
The other impact music has is that of distraction. Everyone likes to think they can multitask. The truth is that no one can multitask. When you think you’re doing two things at once, you’re really just doing two separate things and alternating between them. Have you ever turned down the radio while navigating through a new city or trying to find a house address? It was because you can’t listen to music and concentrate on something else at the same time; your brain knows this fact and made you remove the distraction without you even thinking about it.
So you’re either focusing on the radio or you’re focusing on your driving. Not both. People have told me that they aren’t affected by music when they drive because they listen to talk radio. They are correct. They are not affected by music but they are directly impacted by constantly trying to focus on what the speaker is saying. Categorizing the distraction is splitting hairs but the net result is exactly the same.
This goes for talk radio, the morning DJ crew, and audio books. If you are intently focused on anything other than driving, then you are not focused on driving. And if you are not focused on driving then you are not hypermiling.
What’s interesting is that most people need the distraction. It’s true. You need it. Just admit it so we can move on. Okay, that last bit was a bit of psychology designed to make you say, “no I don’t.” If you did, then let’s put it to the test. Turn the radio off. Drive an entire tank with no musical or spoken distraction. In your need for something to do while driving, you will find yourself focused on the drive. You will actually hear how much your car strains when you punch the gas. You’ll find yourself playing with the pedal to reduce the car’s efforts as you traverse hills. In short, you’ll begin listening to your car instead of the radio. The car will become your entertainment. After a while, you’ll begin talking to yourself. This is perfectly normal and an acceptable part of the human experience. It’s true: my therapist told me so.
Most people will complete one morning commute without the radio, agonize over how painfully boring that was, and then convince themselves they get the point and they are now well-tuned drivers. No. Only after one complete tank of total silence should you even consider turning the radio back on. I take that back. Make it two tanks. Two complete tanks should convince you that paying attention to how your car reacts at different parts of your commute is important. Then, after you have a better understanding of your car, is it safe to reintroduce music. After becoming a more attentive driver, you will be aware of how music affects your driving.
There have been multiple studies proving, definitively, that music will affect our moods and behaviors. Businesses have been using this against you without your knowledge and it’s time you use it to your advantage. Consider listening to calmer music when driving. It should be something you don’t have to think about since thinking about music will distract you from hypermiling. Focusing on audio books can be distracting. If you really want to try something, turn the radio off for a while and get accustomed to driving in complete silence.
In case you’re wondering, I chose to start with the impact of music because I want you to become more attentive first. All the other techniques would provide a reduced impact if you were too distracted to properly apply them. So first, improve your attentiveness to your car before moving on to the other articles. There’s no rush; we’re not going anywhere.