Brightly colored cars, particularly yellow cars, are more visible and therefore at a lesser risk for car accidents, according to a new study that compared the accident rate of yellow cabs and blue cabs in Singapore. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is thought to be the first published study that recognizes car color as a main factor in car accidents. Researchers used three years of data about taxis, drivers, and accidents from Singapore’s largest taxi company. It was determined that yellow taxis were involved in 9 percent fewer accidents than their blue counterparts.
The origin of the color yellow for cabs most likely dates to 1907 when the Chicago Yellow Cab Company decided through a survey that yellow is the most noticeable color for a taxicab. At the time, all other cars were black so the move was largely motivated by the desire for a commercial advantage when it came to hailing cabs.
The Singapore study directly credits the color difference of the taxis to reducing the accident rate, especially when the taxi is in front of another car. The yellow color is more noticeable to other drivers and they are better able to avoid hitting the cabs. All the taxis in the study were the same car model under the same company mandated maintenance program. Researchers were able to account for differences in the number of stops each taxi made as well as distances and driving speeds. This left color as the only remaining factor to consider in the difference in the accident rate between blue and yellow cabs.
Given the lower accident rate for the yellow cabs, the company could reduce the overall accident rate by 917 per year if all the blue cabs were painted yellow. The company maintains a fleet of 12,525 blue cabs. Only 4,175 of its cabs are yellow. A switch to all yellow cabs could potentially save the company $2 million annually, assuming an average cost of $1,000 plus six days out of service for each damaged cab.
The findings have greater implications for public safety in that the color of public transportation could also be changed accordingly to ensure the best visibility. Smaller companies and private-hire car services can also benefit from this study. In addition to the economic impact of money saved from fewer accidents on the road, lives may also be saved for taxi passengers by a simple switch of paint color from blue to yellow.
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