White van man is getting something right that many police forces are getting wrong, according to the Royal Automobile Club Foundation. New research shows that during the day, silver vehicles had a 10% higher crash risk than white vehicles. Popular selling black vehicles had 12% higher risk than white vehicles.
Whilst white van man is sticking to white, many police forces have changed their vehicles from white to silver in order to increase residual sale values. The Foundation questions whether this colour switch has increased the likelihood of collisions.
The research sponsored by motoring organisations in Australia, “An investigation into the relationship between vehicle colour and crash risk” from Monash University Accident Research Centre assessed the relationship between vehicle colour and crash risk through the analysis of real crash outcomes described in mass crash data reported to police in two Australian states.
The study looked at vehicle to vehicle crashes between 1987 and 2004 that resulted in death, injury or the vehicle being towed away. The analysis was stratified by vehicle type, light conditions and jurisdiction of crash. Results of the analysis identified a clear statistically significant relationship between vehicle colour and crash risk.
Compared to white vehicles, a number of colours were associated with higher crash risk. These colours are generally those lower on the visibility index and include black, blue, grey, green, red and silver.
No colour was statistically significantly safer than white although a number of other colours could not be distinguished from white statistically in terms of relative crash risk. The association between vehicle colour and crash risk was strongest during daylight hours where relative crash risks were higher for the colours listed compared to white by up to around 10%.
Comparison of analysis results between the two states of Australia analysed suggested that vehicle colour also has an association with crash severity with lower visibility colours having higher risks of more severe crashes.
This comprehensive study not only looked at vehicle visibility and colour but also took into account other factors that may have had an impact on crash risk such as driver demographics.
Car Colours in the UK
In the UK, the more “at risk” colours are still the top selling colours for new cars. Latest information on the top 5 car colour sales from SMMT over the last two years shows that silver is still the number one seller but black is becoming more popular.
(New Car sales 2006)
- Silver: 671, 000
- Black: 522, 000
- Blue: 521, 000
- Grey: 309, 000
- Red: 192, 000
(New car sales 2005)
- Silver: 726, 000
- Blue: 543, 000
- Black: 479,000
- Grey: 272,000
- Red: 171, 000
On the second hand prestige car market, black cars have now replaced silver as the most desirable and dealers reckon that black models can sell for up to £500 more. Despite being the safest colour, white cars are not getting a look-in in either the new car or used car colour charts.
The traditional sight of blue flashing lights on white emergency vehicles such as police cars and ambulances is also becoming a thing of the past. The RAC Foundation has noticed a trend that may be confusing many motorists. Police cars are going silver, whilst ambulances are turning yellow.
A growing number of police fleets are shunning traditional white cars in favour of coloured cars in an effort to increase the residual value of the cars when they are sold on. Some forces started introducing silver cars five years ago. Cambridgeshire, Kent and Hampshire constabularies all seem to favour coloured cars. Dark blue Volvo police cars can be spotted on several motorways and silver BMWs in the Metropolitan Police area.
Motor auctions that sell used police vehicles have confirmed that silver and other coloured vehicles fetch approximately 10% more than white vehicles. Police fleet managers claim they are buying coloured vehicles solely to maximise residual values.
Commenting on the colour changes, Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation said:
“The days when motorists looked out for white police cars are well and truly over. They are as likely to spot a silver cop car or indeed more likely to see yellow speed cameras.
“Our own research has shown that owners of pastel coloured cars are eight times more likely to suffer from depression than owners of traditionally coloured cars. So as well as watching out for yellow, sliver, blue, red and white emergency vehicles beware of that depressed pastel coloured car on your tail.”
An investigation into the relationship between vehicle colour and crash risk: Monash University Accident Research Centre – Report #263  Authors: S. Newstead & A. D’Elia
Sponsoring organisations – This project was funded as contract research by the following organisations: New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority, NRMA Motoring and Services, Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, Transport Accident Commission, VicRoads.