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Does the Color of Your Car Make You More Likely to Get in an Accident?

Car insurance companies and attorneys who handle many auto accident cases know that most car crashes are caused by a combination of factors. For example, one driver may be distracted momentarily while the other is driving erratically due to impairment by drugs or alcohol. Or, a crash may occur after a sleepy driver fails to notice another driver trying to cut into traffic. It is not surprising that this behavior often leads to deadly accidents.

But does the color of a car play a role in whether a driver gets into an accident? Strange as it sounds, statistics and test results show that car color can make it more likely that certain vehicles will be involved in a car accident.

The Psychology and Perception of Color

Every color of the rainbow carries certain emotional predispositions and has its own effect on the human senses. What you may not know is that each color shade impacts the perception of the shape of an object. For instance, if you take two objects of different colors but the same size—including cars—the darker object will appear smaller to the human eye.

Light-Colored Cars are Safer in General

A light-colored car will generally be easier to see than a dark one. The overall statistics from studies such as the one conducted by Monash University show that dark-colored vehicles are approximately 10% more likely to be involved in an accident than light-colored vehicles. The crashes between dark-colored vehicles in the study also tended to be more severe than accidents involving light-colored cars.

Interestingly, the advantage white cars hold in visibility decreases at night. The correlation between car color and crash risk decreases substantially. However, the risks attached to dark vehicles seem to be even greater at dawn and dusk.

But what about bright colors? How about neutral colors like gray? And how does weather affect the visibility and safety of different vehicles?

Red and Other Bright Colored Cars

Bright red, yellow, and orange vehicles are highly visible in daylight conditions. Studies have shown that bright orange and yellow cars have lower accident rates than other colors. However, there are fewer vehicles of these colors on the road, so the rates don’t carry the same statistical significance as those for white and dark vehicles.

Red, orange, and yellow vehicles also seem to have a lower risk for car-jacking and theft.

Silver and Gray Vehicles

Some statistics show that silver and gray vehicles have nearly as much of an increased crash risk as black cars. Gray and silver are the most difficult for the human eye to see in fog or low light, and these vehicles can camouflage into the background in many settings.

However, other studies show that silver cars are 50% less likely than black cars to be in an accident. Vehicles in darker gray shades appear to be particularly vulnerable to collisions at dusk and dawn. Overall, the dangers posed by driving silver and gray cars are far from clear.

Blue Cars

As with silver and gray vehicles, the results for blue cars sometimes reveal different risk rates. For example, while some studies have shown that blue cars get in significantly more accidents than white cars during daylight hours, other studies do not show as much of a disparity.

Do Black Cars Look Cool Because They’re More Dangerous?

The conclusions are clear when it comes to black vehicles, at least during daylight and at dawn and dusk. Black cars are much more likely to be involved in an accident than white vehicles. The difference is 12%, according to the Monash study.

There are probably many reasons. One problem with black vehicles is that humans tend to perceive them to be moving at a slower rate than they actually are. In one experiment, when people were asked to guess the distance of different-colored vehicles, they incorrectly identified the black car as being furthest away when it was, in fact, the same distance away as the other vehicles.

Visibility is the Key

While some researchers have suggested that the psychology behind color choice plays a significant role in accident correlation, that would not explain why the risks associated with vehicle color are much less prevalent at night. Instead, it seems like visibility is the crucial factor in explaining why color affects the likelihood of getting into an accident.

Still, many other factors can affect a car’s visibility and increase or decrease the accident risk.

How to Increase Visibility and Safety

Every car color has certain drawbacks and conditions where the color proves to pose a greater safety risk. For example, while white vehicles have the best overall safety ratings, they can be difficult to see in intense snowstorms. Similarly, vehicles in gray or certain shades of blue can blend in with the highway in the bright sun. And as we’ve already discussed, dark colors like black are hard for other drivers to see, particularly at dawn and dusk.

So, what can you do to increase your safety level and decrease your risk of an accident? First, start with your lights. Keep running lights turned on and keep them clean for maximum brightness. Also, use turn signals early and tap brake lights early as a warning when you are slowing down rather than just easing up on the accelerator.

While it may not be everybody’s style, adding some sort of decorative feature to your vehicle can make it more noticeable and less likely to be hit in a collision. For example, car magnets or window flags can draw attention without leaving a permanent impact on the vehicle if you decide you don’t like the look.

Car Color Matters, But Your Driving Style Matters More

If you are concerned about driving a black car or think you’re safe just because you have a white vehicle, remember that color is only one small part of the picture. Keep your vehicle in good working order and keep your attention focused on the road — doing that is much more important when it comes to staying safe on the road.

 

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