Seeing red on a question of color

By John Peige
MyCar Data

(August 21, 2010) For the last two decades while working as an automotive journalist, I have had the opportunity to evaluate a different new car each week. That makes about 1,000 new vehicles I have driven over that time. During the same period, I have received two speeding tickets, one in a bright red Cadillac and the other in a fire-engine red Lincoln. So I came to wonder, is there a correlation between car color and speeding tickets?

To find out, I placed a call to Sergeant Thornnie Rouse, who has been a trooper with the Maryland State Police for about as long as I have been writing about cars. Since we both live and work in Maryland, I thought this would be a good place to start. He told me that he has seen no correlation between car color and citations for speeding violations.

"You don't care about the car's color, you care about the violation. If a red car and a green car drive past you and the green car is going 30-miles per hour over the speed limit, the driver of the green car is the one who is going to get stopped."

While Rouse acknowledged that he hears the talk about red cars, sports cars and cars with out-of-state tags getting more speeding tickets, his says that his experience as well as with others he knows in traffic enforcement shows that's not the case. You just focus on the violation, he says.

But my focus was answering the color question so I followed-up with this question: Since there is a place to list a car's color on a speeding citation, where does this information go? It goes to the District Court Processing Center in the state capitol in Annapolis where they keep statistics on all traffic citations issued in Maryland, said Rouse.

A call to the agency revealed that while the car's color is listed on the citation, it is not included in the District Court's database because it is not necessary for the adjudication of the citation. I was told that the database is stored on a computer system where there simply isn't enough capacity to include information on car color.

When I asked the person I was speaking with at the Center if they had any information at all about car color and speeding citations, she said, "Personally, I have always been told not to buy a red car because I would get more speeding tickets. I bought a red car anyway and have never received a ticket."

While there wasn't a statewide agency with statistics of record on car color and speeding citations that I could locate, everyone I spoke with in either an official or unofficial capacity seemed to have heard that drivers of red cars get more tickets.

My next step was the Internet. Perhaps here I could find some real enlightenment about car colors and speeding citations. Here are some random posts I found on one Web site devoted to car color that asked the question: Do red cars get more speeding tickets?

Posted by Imogen:
"Other drivers seem to be more aggressive towards me since I've had a red car, but I thought it was because it was a Mercedes. A cop stopped my spouse's red car when we followed a cream car at the same speed, and not the cream car."

Posted by Theresa:
"Ever since I bought my red Saturn I have gotten a plethora of tickets. I got pulled over three times out of state on the same trip. Two times I got pulled over in Florida. In every case I have paid the fine. I am so upset I am ready to paint my car a different color.

"Another Internet insight revealed this: "I do know that small red sports cars driven by men do seem according to a law enforcement friend to get stopped more often due to the cocky attitude of the male driver... I think it is unfair as I think unwashed ratty cars are a bigger problem since Insurance Agencies say these drivers are less attentive."

Posted by Ro:
"While I don't have an answer to the question about red cars getting more speeding tickets, I may be able to point you in the direction of a place to look for related information. Several years ago when I was contemplating repainting my car red, a friend in the car repair business for many years talked me out of it. Why? Red cars, he said, get into more accidents than cars any other color. He said his experience with several car repair firms bore this out."

When I tried to find any official information about the correlation between car color and accidents in my home state, I found out that the Maryland State Police and the District Court system also do not keep statistics relating to color and accidents.

Bottom line: By this time I was seeing red because there wasn't an official statistic to be read about red. Surely the federal government must have studied this vital question of color. After all, they spend tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers' dollars studying everything else. Perhaps this could be part of a Presidential stimulus package to put people to work counting up the number speeding tickets and accidents by car color so we will finally be able to say with certainty what's right on red!