According to Edison Research, Podcasts retain the top share of time spent for those that stream audio, coming in ahead of music streaming by a fairly sizable margin. There’s an allure of podcasts that entices drivers to regularly consume the audio recordings – the chief reason being that they can simply turn an episode on and dismiss any worries about fiddling with a radio. Podcasts also allow drivers to enjoy archived recordings and specialized radio content not found on the radio dial, giving drivers an opportunity to “binge-listen” to shows.
Still, despite what may seem like an inherent convenience on the road, and perhaps markedly more safe than selecting music from one’s phone, podcasts may not always be the safest option for one to listen to. The real trouble with podcasts and safety-related concerns lies within the fact that podcasts must be streamed from a phone or mobile device, a platform likely not void of other apps or distractions. As conceivably safe as a podcast may be, if it must be accessed through a device that can send and receive calls, manage text messages and provide other alerts, there’s a large chance that these can interfere with one’s listening.
For iPhone users utilizing the Podcasts app, if a call is received while streaming a Podcast, the episode is automatically paused, requiring a user to manually switch back to the Podcast episode in order to resume it. Additionally, if a driver has any sort of notifications set up on their phone, their Podcast will be interrupted with impending information, which may cause a driver to face the temptation of checking their phone while on the road.
A study from KVSC Radio from St. Cloud State University found that auxiliary distractions on one’s phone aside, listening to podcasts while driving presents an interesting mental debacle. Due to the fact that podcasts are perceived as the “safe” listening option for drivers, some may feel that they can then safely participate in other distracting behaviors that will not endanger them on the road. In other words, if a driver feels that they are practicing safety when simply pressing play and heading out, they may also feel as though they are afforded the opportunity to then check their phones, look at themselves in the mirrors or eat while driving.
Podcasts are also unique in that the long form episodes give listeners the opportunity to “scrub” through the episodes and listen to certain segments of the prerecorded episodes. Unlike traditional radio, wherein the live format simply cannot be altered by a user, podcasts give listeners the opportunity to get on their devices and manipulate the time stamp to which they wish to listen, adjust the volume, and manipulate other digital features. While a traditional radio may require a user to focus some concentration while driving on manually turning a nob or adjusting volume, if a driver sticks to a station, the story ends there.
An additional aspect that makes podcasts potentially dangerous is in fact, the content within them. Podcasts, covering many different genres and realms, are devised with the intent of entertainment and engagement, which may require greater level of immersion by the listener. Assuredly, every driver and listener is different in what will keep their minds occupied, but podcasts are not often intended for background listening or casual white noise – they often provide information that requires more in depth listening. Podcasts are a simulating listening experience in this sense, somewhat negating an argument of playing the podcast and washing one’s hands of it. Listening intently is key to understanding and enjoying podcasts, and in that one finds the lack of safety when driving while listening.
Whatever the number of hypothetical problems that may arise with podcasts, one may point out that nearly anything can be a distraction to drivers while on the road if abused for its purposes. What perhaps separates podcasts from this argument is ultimately a product from a culture that promotes multitasking and long periods of listening. No matter how safe or infallible one’s mode of listening to podcasts may be, it seems their intent is to provide to a lifestyle that values taking on multiple tasks simultaneously, accomplishing these tasks in a mobile-oriented lifestyle, and appreciating instant gratification through entertainment all the while.
At their core podcasts are entertainment, so perhaps in suggesting that in-cab entertainment is detrimental to the safety of all parties involved, podcasts ought to be on their way out. However ironic as it may seem, there are enough podcasts pertaining to the promotion of safety and diligence on the road as there are podcasts that may be considered frivolous or distracting. Highway To Safety is one of the top podcasts for information on how to better practice safety on the road for both commercial drivers and non-commercial motorists. National Public Radio is also source that frequently promotes short audio pieces on highway safety, featuring interviews with authorities in the transportation industry. It seems that if one must pursue listening to podcasts while on the job, they may as well do so with the intent of peppering in some wisdom about the consciousness of their driving. Still, in regards to radio, hands-free phones, podcasts or having someone in the cab to converse with, it comes down to an individual’s level to focus on the most important task at hand.
In terms of audio-related distractions, podcasts are a less likely culprit for a driver being involved in a collision than compact discs, radio interfaces or managing music on one’s phone. Nonetheless, the threat of drivers feeling all-too comfortable with the implied safety of podcasts may come into play as well. Drivers ought to be granted some entertainment while on the road – especially those pulling the long haul shifts or those stuck in gridlock.
Tune into those favorite shows, but one should be sure to keep one’s mind primarily focused on safety and to keep in mind one’s surroundings.