Crash colour

Black coloured cars are more likely to be involved in a crash, according to definitive new research linking road safety and vehicle colour.

The Vehicle Colour Study, conducted by Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) in Australia, confirmed the popular belief that white is the safest choice when it came to being visible and safe on the road.

Compared to white vehicles, black cars had a 12 per cent higher crash risk, closely followed by grey cars with 11 per cent higher risk. Silver vehicles were next, with 10 per cent, then blue and red at 7 per cent. While other car colours such as cream, yellow and beige ranked closely to white, no other colour ranked safer than white.

The MUARC research was supported by the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria RACV, VicRoads, the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) and the Transport Accident Commission (TAC). Using on-road crash data, researchers analysed crashes between 1987 and 2004 in Victoria and Western Australia that resulted in death or injury or a vehicle being towed away.

Lead researcher, Senior Research Fellow at MUARC, Dr Stuart Newstead, said the Australian study was arguably the most comprehensive to probe the link between vehicle colour and crash risk.

‘Previous international studies have examined vehicle visibility and colour but have not fully taken into account other factors that may have an impact on crash risk, such as driver demographics,’ Dr Newstead said.

Dr Newstead said the study findings were clear and demonstrated that white-coloured vehicles had the lowest crash risk in all types of light conditions.

‘Conversely, darker colours and colours with low contrast to the road environment, including silver, grey, green, red, blue and black, tend to be associated with a higher crash risk, particularly in daylight hours,’ he said.

Dr Newstead said the link between car colour and crash risk was found to be weaker during twilight and night driving.

‘Car colour was found to be less influential on crash risk in darker driving conditions most likely because colour is harder to differentiate. The use of car headlights also negates the effect of car colour in dark conditions to a large degree,’ he said.

RACV Chief Engineer – Vehicles, Michael Case, said the study results were a useful consideration for safety-conscious car buyers.

However, he urged motorists to recognise that other factors, such as occupant protection levels and safety features, including Electronic Stability Control (ESC), were more influential in improving safety.

‘Driving a darker coloured car can increase your crash risk, but that is nowhere near as influential a factor as your driving behaviour,’ he said.