Maximizing the Morning Commute: A Randomized Trial Assessing the Effect of Driving on Podcast Knowledge Acquisition and Retention

Ann Emerg Med. 2021 Sep;78(3):416-424. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2021.02.030. Epub 2021 Apr 28.


Study objective: Emergency medicine residents use podcasts as part of their learning process, often listening while driving. It is unclear how driving while listening to a podcast affects knowledge acquisition and retention. This study evaluated the knowledge gained from listening to podcasts while driving compared to that gained from undistracted listening.

Methods: This was a multicenter, randomized, crossover trial among postgraduate year (PGY) 1 to 4 emergency medicine residents at 4 institutions. Residents were randomized with stratification by site and PGY level to listen to podcasts while driving first or sitting undistracted in a room first. Within 30 minutes of listening, they completed a 20-question test. They subsequently crossed over to the alternate intervention, serving as their own controls, and listened to a different podcast before completing a second 20-question test. Each of the podcasts was professionally recorded and based on 5 emergency medicine-relevant journal articles that had not been covered in a journal club or curriculum at any of the institutions. One month later, participants completed a delayed recall test composed of 40 new questions based on both podcasts. Questions were derived and validity evidence was collected prior to use. Data were compared using a paired-sample t test and ANOVA.

Results: A total of 100 residents completed the initial recall tests, and 96 residents completed the delayed recall test. There was no statistically significant difference between the driving and undistracted cohorts on the initial recall (74.2% versus 73.3%) or delayed recall (52.2% versus 52.0%).

Conclusion: Driving while listening to a podcast does not meaningfully affect knowledge acquisition or retention when compared with undistracted podcast listening among emergency medicine residents.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Comprehension*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Curriculum
  • Emergency Medicine / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Webcasts as Topic