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Is your teen's reaction time like a 70-year-old?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013by  Jon Osterberg

PEMCO employs bright, talented college interns each summer, and Andy Riggs is one of them. Andy works in our Seattle headquarters while on break from Whitman College. We asked Andy to write a guest post in our Teen Driver blog because of his fresh perspective – that of someone who was a teen not long ago.


Loud music causes decreased driver reaction timeby ANDY RIGGS

Does your teenager have the reaction time of a 70-year-old?

The answer could be yes, according to a study completed by Susan Strick in 2000.

This study looked at the effects of loud music on reaction times in teens, and the findings are astonishing. Listening to music at or above 85 decibels led to a 20% decrease in reaction time, nearing the reaction time of a 70-year-old.

To put this in perspective, suppose that your teen is driving at 60 mph. If it takes three-fourths of a second to apply the brake after sensing danger, it will take 66 feet for the car to stop. If your teen is listening to loud music, it’ll take 79.2 feet. At 60 mph, fractions of a second count.

If the delay in reaction time isn’t reason enough to consider turning the music down, consider this:

1. Most car radios have a maximum volume of 100 decibels, the same volume of the average chainsaw or jackhammer! Hearing damage can occur after only 15 minutes of exposure to 100 decibels.

2. Blasting music also can increase your chances of being pulled over by a police officer. In some areas, you can even receive a citation for playing music that’s audible from 25 feet away from the source.

3. Loud music can impede your teen’s ability to hear car horns, sirens, and emergency vehicles.

Although texting/talking while driving, drinking/doing drugs while driving, and other forms of distraction seem to get more press than loud music, I hope you’ll take a moment to warn your teen(s) of the dangers of loud music. Their ears (and your wallets) will thank you!

Have you had an experience with a driver who was distracted by loud music? Let us hear your stories in the comments section below!


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