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Published: Wednesday, 8/23/2006

Most people in survey say they burst into song behind the wheel

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

If you're a redheaded woman who drives a sport-utility, you probably sing in your vehicle.

And if you're anybody else - well, you probably do too.

Nine of 10 U.S. drivers sing in their cars, according to a recent survey of 1,002 motorists by Directive Analytics, a Norwalk, Conn., marketing research firm.

And a whopping 98 percent of SUV drivers surveyed said they sing in their vehicles.

Females tend to sing more than males, and 96 percent of redheads surveyed said they "always" or "sometimes" sing in their vehicles.

"It makes me feel good," said fiery redhead Marianne Gill, 52. But when the Toledo resident is cruising in her Pontiac Vibe rocking out to Cher, she makes sure she cranks up the volume high enough to drown out her own voice.

Jessica Halker, 24, also said she loves to sing, but knows she can't carry a tune. That doesn't stop the Columbus Grove, Ohio, resident from screeching the lyrics to her favorite Top 40 songs, though. "Nobody can hear me when the music's up loud," she said.

But what happens when you're so wrapped up with your singing - inevitably into a hairbrush or cell phone that doubles as an imaginary microphone - that you don't immediately notice that another motorist has caught you in the act?

If you're like redheaded University of Toledo junior Michael Betz, 21, you'd pretend to be talking to someone using a wireless headset instead of singing along to a Kelly Clarkson song.

Like Mr. Betz, men are more likely to stop singing or try to cover up their act by pretending to be yawning, the study said.

Others responded that they immediately stop singing, either speed up or slow down to avoid the person who caught them, or pretend to be talking to someone else in the car.

But according to the study, those who are embarrassed when caught singing are in the minority. Most would keep right on performing, including Dameion Legeza, 28, of Toledo.

"For the most part, I'm belting it out. I want the people next to me on both sides to hear," he said of his voice while he's driving his Buick Park Avenue that he uses as a private studio to hone his singing skills. "I've got nothing to hide, but some people might think, 'This dude's crazy.'•"

The study also indicated that the urge to sing in the car decreases with age. Of those surveyed who said they "always" sing in the car, 53 percent were ages 18 to 29, 39 percent were ages 30 to 44, 30 percent were ages 44 to 54, and just 16 percent were older than 55.

But being 73 years old doesn't stop Beverly Painter from singing Christian quartet music with her husband, Robert, 72, in their Dodge Caravan.

The Pandora, Ohio, residents, who also sing together in church, don't care if someone sees them harmonizing. "It doesn't bother us a bit," Mrs. Painter said. "If we're singing, we just sing."

Unlike the Painters, most of those who sing in the car said they pipe down when they have an audience, according to the study.

But if the spectators are young, Margret Schutz, 35, of Pandora said that's different. "With children, it's fine," she said. "But other grown-ups? No."

So what are all these Americans singing? Half responded that rock music gets them jammin'. Other favorite sing-along genres are '80s tunes, pop, country, holiday songs, love songs, or '90s songs.

But if nine of 10 Americans sing to their favorite tunes while in the car, that leaves one out of 10 Americans cruising quietly down the road.

The top two reasons why people don't sing in the car? They don't like their singing voices or they simply don't like to sing, the study suggested.

Both scenarios apply to Terry Hackenburg, 55, of Bellevue, who said he jams in the car to classic rock by nodding his head to the beat.

"I just know I don't have a good voice. I just don't sing, period," he said. "You just don't do things to embarrass yourself. I've been to too many karaoke bars and been embarrassed for other people who can't sing."

But if there was any place to shrug off the potential embarrassment and erupt into uninhibited song, most Americans agree that it would be in the privacy of their own cars.

"You feel free while you drive," Mr. Legeza said. "And it takes your mind off the person who just cut you off."

Contact Erika Ray at:

eray@theblade.com

or 419-724-6088.



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