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Research in the United Kingdom has found that a 1 km/h reduction in the average speed can produce up to a three percent reduction in injury crashes.

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Fascinating facts

Safe vehicle colours

The colour of a car plays a major role in determining whether the vehicle will be involved in a crash.

Swedish study shows black is a risky colour

A study of 31,000 crashes in Sweden1 found that black cars were involved in 22.5% of the crashes even though black cars made up only 4.4% of the vehicle population.

This means that black cars were 5 times more likely to crash.

According to the same study, the safest car colour was pink.

US study shows red, white and blue safer

Studies in the United States found that US Postal vehicles painted red, white and blue were involved in 27% fewer crashes than postal vehicles painted drab olive. The red, white and blue vehicles were involved in 622 crashes while the olive vehicles were involved in 849 crashes.

How conspicuous is the colour of your car?

According to Daimler Benz, the ratings for
colour ranges from white - at 86% percent -
down to black, dark red and dark blue at 4%.
White
86%
Light Ivory
71%
Aqua Blue
71%
Yellow
70%
Pastel White
67%
Off White
65%
Maple Yellow
58%
Signal Red
44%
Autumn Beige
38%
Carnelian Red
21%
Red Green
21%
Beige Grey
20%
Grey
17%
Blue
8%
Deep Blue
5%
Dark Olive
5%
Balck
4%
Dark Red
4%
Dark Blue
4%

Daimler-Benz say white is right

Daimler-Benz undertook research (before flourescent paints were used) that concluded that white was the easiest colour to be seen. White rated 86% in their tests while black, dark red and dark blue rated 4%.

So which colour is safest?

Many people think that particular colours are safer because they are more visible but it isn’t as simple as that.

The visibility of cars depends on the weather, road conditions the landscape and the time of day.

Generally bright and brilliant colours are much better than dark colours because they reflect a lot more light and can be seen from up to four times the distance of vehicles painted a dark colour.

The US National Safety Council defined the safest colour as "one that is highly visible in the widest range of lighting, weather and vision conditions"2

The Safety Council noted that white is the most visible colour in uniform lighting, but it has low visibility on a light coloured road in bright sunlight and in snow and fog.

Colour affects distance perception

A University of California study3 found that the colour of an approaching car influences the driver’s judgement about how far away it is. Blue and yellow made distant objects seem closest. The grey shades made objects seem further away.

Colours of cars registered
in New Zealand in 2004
White
453,585
Blue
451,659
Red
405,943
Silver
306,020
Green
306,020
Grey
233,502
Black
139,662
Gold
73,091
Brown
60,927
Yellow
23,719
Purple
23,666
Cream
17,248
Orange
8,665
Pink
8,345
Total
2,576,249

Research has also shown that

  • Red cars are more likely to be found exceeding the speed limit
  • Australians prefer white cars
  • Silver cars hide the most dirt and red cars show the most dirt
  • Silver is a popular colour in Germany
  • Cars painted in metallic paint often cost more because metallic paint is harder to match when a car is being repaired.
  • Black cars are not popular in hot climates
  • White is considered a sensible car colour and is often used for fleet cars
  • Porche made blue cars because they stood out in the European winters
  • The latest fashion is "Harlequin" paint that changes shade depending on the light and the angle of viewing. It costs $1200 per litre.

Footnotes

1Colour choice can be crucial. Road Ahead, Winter 1977, p2-4 2Colours and visibility. New Zealand Road Safety, 29 (2), 1982. p16-17.
3Nathan, Robert A. What's the safest color for a motor vehicle?. Traffic Safety, Sept. 1969, p13, 42.

Bibilography

A question of colour. Road Ahead, June 1990, p15.

Bain, Helen. Paint your wagon. The Dominion Post, 19 April 2003, pF3

Car color and safety : white paper. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. (http://www.aaafts.org/Text/Research/2001projects/carcolor.cfm)

Colour choice can be crucial. Road Ahead, Winter 1977, p2-4

Colour my wheels. Royalauto, May 2002, p42-45

Colours and visibility. New Zealand Road Safety, 29 (2), 1982. p16-17.

Does vehicle color influence the risk of being passively involved in a collision?. Epidemiology, 13 (6),
2002, p721-725

Nathan, Robert A. Whats the safest color for a motor vehicle?. Traffic Safety, Sept. 1969, p13, 42.

The safest colour for your car. New Zealand Road safety, October 1989, p17.

Vehicle colour & safety. Australian Road Research Board, 1989.

Last updated: 31 March 2005