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A Holiday Extras family in their car.Credit: Professional ImagesFine tuning your driving

Getting the best from your car begins with being a happy driver:
Simon Hacker rummages through the glovebox for a musical tune-up that might ensure man and machine co-exist in harmony.

1 This month’s theme of tuning and economy offers a timely opportunity for us to air an oft-forgotten truth: music soothes the soul. And without being soothed, all the tuning and economy measures we buy into are time and money wasted. “So what?” you cry, while cranking up your Best of Run DMC. Well, listen up, because the right music could make the difference between a heavenly commute, or the kind of clickbait hell-on-wheels horror that keeps social media buzzing.

Of course, the issue of what music to drive to is miles more complex than the music industry would have you believe. Our fine network of motorway service stations will happily supply you with a handy soundtrack on the ubiquitous theme of Best Driving Tunes of All Time for minimal outlay, but be careful: one man’s Meatloaf warbling Bat out of Hell as you struggle with traffic porridge of the M25, is another man’s murder.

3 Attempting to be more mainstream with your choices can be equally dangerous. The kind of easy listening, middle-of-the-road muzak you can sample from our panoply of digital stations could well have you driving into the middle of the road, self-destruction being preferable to the excruciating torture of James Blunt telling you “you’re beautiful… it’s true”, or Kanye West beckoning you into the scream-out-loud horror of his private world.

4 Perhaps the best way to select driving music is to ensure the music is tuned to your tendencies. So if you are naturally somewhat press-on in your driving style, it is, sadly, unlikely that Moby’s Why Does My Heart? will help you along, while the short segue into such fare as Enya’s Orinoco Flow will probably fill you with all the inner calm of a one-armed traffic policeman on the Hangar Lane gyratory system.

Speaking of which, such images expose the real heart of this what-to-play dilemma. All the advertising for in-car music soft-focuses on the holy trinity of man, machine and open highway. They forget the hell of other drivers, the ones nudging your tailgate, driving in front at 19mph, braking whenever they see an oncoming car (though the road is ten metres wide), stopping without indicating, parking on a blind bend… you know the stuff. It is the reality of what we see when chilling out to music. All said, it’s a miracle the entire road network hasn’t turned into a giant brawl.

6 Despair not though, because a new scientific report promises to provide the rage-busting answers we all seek. Boiled down to a soundbite, it’s this: ditch all your upbeat stuff, dump Olly Murs at the nearest bus stop, jettison your Little Mix, flytip your Ed Sheeran. Thing is, they’re all far too much fun. American and Dutch scientists, reporting in the journal Ergonomics, wired up a team of driving guinea pigs and discovered that, in simulated driving tests, the experimentees were far more likely to crash or make dangerous decisions when they were listening to uplifting beats. The scientific verdict: pull up to the bumper and shove some miserable music on. Here, therefore, is our formative playlist up for Diesel Car’s Top 13: Now That’s What I Call Miserable. Tune in, get maudlin, and drive safer…

1 The Cars: Drive

2 REM: Everybody Hurts

3 The Smiths: There is a Light and It Never Goes Out

4 Eric Carmen: All by Myself

5 Radiohead: Creep

6 Leonard Cohen: Halleluja

7 Joy Division: Love Will Tear Us Apart

8 Eric Clapton: Tears in Heaven

9 Johnny Cash: Hurt

10 Gary Jules/Tears for Fears: Mad World

11 Badfinger: Without You

12 Terry Jacks: Seasons in the Sun

13 Bonus track (emergency use only): S Club 7: Reach for the Stars

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