Hi Ho Silver is Safe!

Silver rules the road. According to the DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report, an annual compilation of data on vehicle color trends, silver retains its top spot as the most popular car color. Year after year, car buyers show their love of silver. But now there might be another reason, aside from esthetics, for choosing silver as the color for your next car. A team of New Zealand epidemiologists has recently published a two-year study of accident data compiled in their homeland, and the results say occupants of silver cars are less likely to be involved in injury accidents than those riding in cars of another color. And while they seem steadfast that the results of the study are accurate, the most vexing thing is they can't figure out why.

Before you cry out, "People who buy silver cars must be safer drivers than those who buy red or purple cars!" you should know that the researchers made every effort to screen for anything that might skew survey results. Thus the results were adjusted for age, sex, alcohol level (three of our favorite adjustment factors), education, use of drugs, seatbelt use, driver's license status and even the average time spent behind the wheel. In addition to the human factors, the study also tried to screen out vehicle-related factors like age, engine size, and condition. And, finally, the research team tried to eliminate other wild cards such as weather, road conditions and light variables (daylight, dusk and nighttime.)

When all this was fed into the giant analysis computer, the British Medical Journal reported, silver cars were 60 percent less likely to be involved in a serious injury than the control group - white cars. Even when the adjustments were removed from the data, silver cars were still 50 percent less likely to be involved in a serious injury accident than white.

If silver is safest, what are the least safe? Dark earth tones. Brown vehicles were 110 percent more likely to be involved in an injury accident than white cars, when the adjustment factors were taken into account. Black was almost equally bad at 100 percent more likely and green cars were 80 percent more likely.

So if dark colors are unsafe, you might figure that bright colors like yellow and red would be safer because they are more likely to be seen. Well, yes and no. On unadjusted bases, both red and yellow vehicles were viewed as much more likely to be involved in injury accidents, but when adjusted for all the other variables, they actually registered as being safer than the control color of white.

So what does all this mean? Will driving a silver car instead of a brown one enhance your family's safety? Maybe. What we do know is that while silver cars are very popular now, red and other high-chroma colors are charging up the popularity charts. The question we have to ask is, what price fashion?

France-based Tom Ripley writes frequently about autos and the human condition. Lately, he has also taken to attending runway shows, at least until security turns him out.