How does car color affect road safety? At first blush, the question may seem trivial. If you’re worried about accident prevention, isn’t it more important to focus on problems like DUI, distracted driving and failing infrastructure? Those factors obviously matter. But perhaps surprisingly, car color does seem to play a role—possibly. How might it matter? And why?
Whether it makes us safer (or more risk-prone), car color is a critical signifier. Consumer Reports explains: “Paint is one of the most important design aspects parts of a car — the right paint job can mean the difference between luxury and sport utility, can turn Grandpa’s jalopy into a teen dream machine, and forever change a car from a vehicle you use to get around to a statement on free love and drugs.”
What the Science Can Tell Us
Unfortunately, research on this topic is sparse. Russ Rader, a spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, argues that color probably doesn’t matter much. Insurance companies generally agree—the consensus based on data suggests that car color does not affect accident rates much, if at all.
Other lines of evidence, however, tell a more nuanced story. Scientific American reports that “drivers blocked in traffic by a red car react faster and more aggressively than drivers barred by vehicles of other colors.” One study from New Zealand found a compelling association between car color and accidents. Another study found evidence that lighter colored cars might be safer. (Per the authors: “Light colors (white and yellow) were associated with a slightly lower risk of being passively involved in a collision, although only under certain environmental conditions.”)
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Tagged auto accidents