Is the Color of Your Turn Signal Putting You in Danger?

Man feeling neck after car accident
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Does your car have a red turn signal, or a yellow one? If you live in the U.S., it is almost certainly the former.

And that is unfortunate. Red turn signals may put you at increased risk for a traffic accident, according to Consumer Reports.

In a story on the CR website, Mike Quincy, the publication’s autos editor, says:

“There are different laws in different countries. In the United States, they still allow red turn signals. Yellow, or amber, makes more sense, because there’s a sharper contrast between the red brake lights and yellow turn signals.”

That is not just Quincy’s opinion. The advantage of amber rear turn signals was shown to be statistically significant in a 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The federal agency found that amber signals show a 5.3% effectiveness in reducing two-vehicle crashes where a lead vehicle is struck from behind while:

  • Turning left
  • Turning right
  • Merging into traffic
  • Changing lanes
  • Entering or leaving a parking space

In other words, amber turn signals reduce such crashes by 5.3%, when compared with red turn signals — and “the true effectiveness of amber may be slightly higher than the reported +5.3 percent,” according to the federal study.

So, why do virtually all cars in the U.S. have red turn signals? CR speculates that it is either because of design aesthetics or simply because it is cheaper to use red for all rear lamps.

For more car stories, check out “8 Things That Make Your Car an Easy Target for Thieves.”

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