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Long MP3 Playlists Lead to Distracted Drivers

FRIDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- Searching for a favorite song on your MP3 player in the car can lead to distracted driving, researchers say.

About 90 percent of new vehicles sold in the United States have MP3 connectivity and makers of aftermarket MP3 controllers make devices claimed to decrease driver distraction. But these devices may actually increase driver distraction, according to the new study.

The study included 50 people aged 18 to 25 who used either an MP3 player or an aftermarket controller to search for specific songs in playlists of varying lengths while operating a driving simulator.

Drivers who searched through long playlists (580 songs) glanced away from the road more often and for longer periods of time than those who searched through shorter playlists. The aftermarket controller was found to lengthen, not shorten, the drivers' glances away from the road.

The findings appear in Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

"As seen in this study, these aftermarket devices do not always have the expected effect," researcher John Lee, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a journal news release.

"New technology in the car often seems like familiar old technology, such as a radio, but is often much more likely to distract," Lee noted. "A simple task of selecting a song from a list can seduce you into looking away from the road longer than you might have intended, and long looks away from the road can kill."

Despite numerous education campaigns and laws aimed at reducing distracted driving, the problem may actually be getting worse, recent figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation suggest.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

More information

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more about distracted driving.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, news release, April 16, 2012

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