Car colour & vehicle safety

  • March 1, 2020

A decision about what colour car to purchase goes far about simple aesthetics. Many motorists are unaware that different colours have safety implications. It is well known that different colours affect our emotional reactions. There is a reason the Soviet flag was red for example. Red is a colour that is stimulating to the emotions, whilst blue has a more pacifying effect. But the main issue with vehicle safety is ‘conspicuity’, namely how well the vehicle can be seen by other motorists in different situations.

The colour of your car and safety

Some studies have found that there is very little reason to choose one colour over another when it comes to choosing the colour of your car. This report for example concludes that the evidence is ambivalent.
However a study of different vehicle colours, conducted by Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) published in 2007, analysed 855,258 accidents occurring between 1987 and 2004 in the Australian states of Victoria and Western Australia. The study analysed risk by light condition.

It found that in daylight black cars were 12% more likely than white to be involved in an accident, followed by grey cars at 11%, silver cars at 10%, and red and blue cars at 7%, with no other colours found to be significantly more or less risky than white. At dawn or dusk the risk ratio for black cars jumped to 47% more likely than white, and that for silver cars to 15%. In the hours of darkness only red and silver cars were found to be significantly more risky than white, by 10% and 8% respectively. These sorts of results would indicate that the colour of your car does indeed play a role in road safety.

Making a safe choice of car colour

If the MUARC results are to be taken seriously it is clear that white cars are the most safe, if colour is the sole criteria. What this testing does look at is how visible you are to other vehicles. Other safety factors may include

  • How often your car is serviced
  • How you drive
  • How good the active and passive safety features are on your car in the first place

It would be unwise to base all of your safety concerns on what colour your car is. There is no substitute for defensive driving in a well serviced car that has good safety features. But none of this is of great help if other motorists simply fail to see you.
There is a reason why white cars are so popular. They are more visible and hence have a safety advantage, if only in terms of ‘conspicuity’.

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