By Keith N. Leonard, Esquire
What is in a color? Buyers have a variety of colors to choose from for that new car. In the 1890s into the 1900s, cars were commonly unpainted or painted dark gray or black. Black paint had the benefit of not only being inexpensive, but also being the most common color among other modes of transportation of that era (e.g., trains and steamships), and did not have anything to do with the alleged slimming effect of black. Henry Ford is alleged to have remarked, “A customer may have a car in any color he desires, so long as it’s black.”
However, by the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, a few more colors were offered in most production cars – red, green, gray, and black, but mostly in the darker shades.
DuPont Automotive issues a Color Popularity Report each year that studies color trends throughout the world. In 2011, white was the most popular vehicle color in North America. Almost one-fourth of the vehicles that were sold were white, with black, silver, gray, red, and blue following in preference. Though white has been the most popular color in North America since 2007, silver had been the leader over the seven years prior. Moreover, the color pattern varies as other parts of the world are examined.
In Europe, black is the most popular color and has been each year since 2007. White, gray, silver, and blue round out the top five colors of cars in Europe after black. In the Asian Pacific region, silver claims the top spot, followed by white, but in that region white was the most popular color of cars in Japan and India. Silver was also the leading color for vehicles in South America, with black and white coming in second and third. White is the most popular color choice in South Africa, while black leads the way in vehicles in Russia.
But other than aesthetics or personal preference, is there a reason to pick one color over another when buying your next car? Is red selected less as the color of choice around the world because red cars allegedly attract more speeding tickets than other colors? Police officers throughout the United States deny that drivers of red cars are more likely to be pulled over for speeding violations than drivers of cars of other colors.
Similarly, representatives of insurance companies deny that it will cost you more to insure a red car than a car of another color; claiming (of course) that it is your driving record and not the color of your vehicle that affects the cost of the insurance premium for the vehicle. The type of car (e.g., sports cars), regardless of the color, may also affect the cost of insuring it, as sports cars are generally more expensive to repair and are stolen more often than other types of vehicles. The United States Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also points out that high-performance and small cars are more likely to be in accidents than big family cars and mini-vans. Perhaps that explains the popularity of mini-vans among so-called soccer moms more than the sport played by their children.
Is white the most popular color of vehicle in North America (and among the top three in most other regions of the world) because it is safer and less likely to cause you to be involved in a motor vehicle accident? The theory behind that claim would seem to be that a white car is more easily seen on the road than other colors. However, a study published in a 2003 issue of the British Medical Journal debunked that claim.
According to the researchers who published that study, drivers of silver cars were fifty percent less likely to be involved in an injury-causing accident than drivers of white cars. The researchers in that study also pointed out that the least safe car colors are brown, black, and green. But before you run off to buy that new car in silver, consider a 2007 investigation by the Accident Research Centre in Australia.
After looking into more than 850,000 crashes involving either a personal injury or the towing of the vehicle, those investigators concluded that white cars were less likely to be associated with a higher crash risk than colors considered lower on the visibility index such as black, blue, gray, green, red, and silver. In the 1980s an upstate New York fire department changed the color of their fire engines from red to lime-yellow, with a fifteen percent drop in their crash rates.
So, unless you are fond of lime-yellow, buy the color of vehicle that you like and just drive safer, letting some other person get the ticket. For the record, I drive a blue “sports car.”
Remember that laws are constantly changing and are often not uniform throughout the United States. Do not place unqualified reliance on the information in this article. Always contact legal counsel for detailed advice.
If you have a particular issue, law or problem you would like to see addressed in a future column, please contact me at KLeonard@LeonardSciolla.com, or Leonard, Sciolla, Hutchison, Leonard & Tinari, LLP, 215-567-1530.
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