Is it safe to listen to books while driving?

Many people have turned to listening to audiobooks when driving. But is it safe?

Dr Paul Roberts, the deputy director of the University of Western Australia's Centre for Road Safety Research says listening to audiobooks in when driving could present problems by consuming too much of the driver's attention and slowing down reaction times.

A 2018 Canadian study where participants were asked to drive in a simulator while listening to audiobooks proved their reactions differed depending on the driving conditions.

"In a complex environment, people actually reacted more slowly to hazards, and in a more simple environment, they reacted more quickly while listening to audiobooks," he says.

"The critical thing is to engage people to a level that keeps them at that optimal level of cognitive arousal, but that doesn't present too much of a cognitive challenge, where they don't have enough capacity left over to deal with unexpected events while they're driving."

Does this surprise you?


I cannot see how it would be different to listening to radio or music ... they all post a hazard to driving

Generally when listening to music it just sort of waffs over you and you are not really listening to it. You might sing along to it but only if you already known the words. Radio like the news, etc is just short term concentration. Audio books need lots more concentration and so would be distracting, as it talking on a mobile even if hands free.

Having driven a few times between Perth and Karratha I would say it would be fine; however not driving in traffic on a freeway in Australia.

However, if driving in Europe I would not want to listen to an audiobook I don't think it would be safe.

Listening to a book demands a degree of attention that is not required when listening to music thus is really a distraction which will affect reaction times.

I have driven a lot in the past and still make a point of not listen to relaxing type music as I drive because it does make you relax while you are supposed to be alert. To many people drive as it they are in their living rooms and explains a lot about the poor standard of driving we see all too often.

I've found listening to talk rather than music actually keeps me more alert. Music tends to make me feel drowsy so I avoid it. I have listened to audio books on long trips in the past and didn't have any trouble remaining alert. I guess it depends on the individuals response really. Some people may not find it helpful while others do.


That's all we need....more unsafe drivers on the road. Listening to music while driving is quite calming and I don't mean hard rock, but gentle music. Listening to an audio book however is dangerous. 


Listening to music while driving is an interesting topic because music is known to affect one's mood. Soft gentle music sooth's the soul and is soporific therefore can be dangerous to listen to while driving but similarly hard rock and punt really stir up aggression so are also dangerous. Long distance rally drivers apparently listen to brass bands because it keeps them awake.

I guess the golden rule is to avoid anything that will cause a distraction because that is a well documented cause of accidents.      

I agree about hard rock music.  It can be dangerous when driving.  I've only had two speeding tickets in my life, one of them was while I was listening to Meatloaf belt out 'Bat out of Hell'.   :)  Can't remember what I was listening to the first time, but it wasn't an audio book.

I'm not that keen on audio books.  I've given them a try, even when driving, but contrary to what some have found I found it the other way around.  I am distracted from the book by the road, or whatever else is going on around me.

Cannot imagine how painful it must be to listen to hard rock with hearing aids!

It was interesting when I was tested for my hearing the lady that run her own business said she is getting more and more 30 year olds in with hearing issues, but they don't want their friends to know about it!

Very sad, but this music industry has a lot to answer for, people in their teens don't think they will get to 30 with hearing issues.   The damage has been done by the time they realize there is an issue.

I have never had a speeding or parking ticket, so far!

I'm not giving up listening to Batman and Spider man on my car audio. Some dimwits think I am mad but never had an accident, and I even dance in my seat to Meatloaf and hard rock!

I agree with Les.61, music is ok & the short news, but books needs more concentration.  I also find that a full on discussion about something with a passenger is distracting, similarly if you start thinking about some other issue, situation or problem is also distracting so I conscientiously try and focus back on driving.



Tood, you are absolutely correct about the distraction of having discussions with passengers.  Also, children can also be very distracting.

What about listening to the news?



I've tried listening to a favourite Dr Who audiobook, but keep losing the plot because I'm concentrating on the traffic!


To make a comment, please register or login

Preview your comment