Claim: Red cars are ticketed for speeding more often than vehicles of other colors.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2004]
Origins: The belief that red cars attract more speeding tickets than do their less rosily-hued counterparts is a cherished motoring factoid of long standing. By its lights, the gendarmes are more likely to sit up and take notice of speeding red cars than they are vehicles of other colors, hence the higher incidence of moving violation citations
Explanations abound as to why red cars would attract more speeding citations than is their statistical fair share. It has been postulated that red, being an especially eye-catching color, unduly attracts the attention of the highway patrol, therefore even when every car on the road is whipping past at
Another theory has it that a color-prompted optical illusion makes red cars appear to be going faster than they actually are and so works to get them clocked more often by John Law. Color-influenced driver behavior has also been suggested, with the rubious shade of such vehicles working to increase their drivers' breathing and heart rates, which in turn incites those behind the wheel to drive faster without their consciously being aware of having made that decision. Another line of reasoning ties assumptions made about sports cars (that people who own them tend to drive fast) to red's being one of the most popular colors for such vehicles — if sports cars are ticketed more often, and more sports cars tend to be red, then red cars would earn proportionally more speeding tickets than would vehicles of other colors.
They're great theories, one and all. Problem is, their premise is flawed as it does not appear that red cars get cited for speeding more often than they statistically should.
Whenever they've been asked about the rumor, police across the U.S. have consistently denied any connection between vehicle color and tickets issued or the allegation that they write up the drivers of red cars more often than they do other motorists. Said
But of course such statements aren't in and of themselves disproof of anything, because police might well not recognize their own bias when it comes to which vehicles they choose to pursue. Yet what those in law enforcement have had to say on this topic over the years finds support in the one and only study (informal or otherwise) we could locate about correlation of car color to speeding tickets.
In an attempt to prove or disprove the belief, in 1990 a reporter for the
His findings challenged the belief about red cars being dunned with proportionally more of the speeding tickets. Red cars accounted for
White cars, which accounted for
Gray cars were the ones that gained a greater share of the speeding tickets than they statistically should have: while they accounted for only
In addition to the "earn more speeding tickets than they should" theory, other mistaken beliefs attach to red cars: They are widely thought to be stolen more often or be involved in a greater number of accidents:
I continuously hear the rumor that statistics "prove" that red cars are stolen more than any other color, even to the extent that insurance companies are wary with red cars, due to the increased theft factor. Red car owners thus have higher rates. The idea is that the color red attracts car thieves, I guess like hummingbirds.
The belief that red cars get ticketed more frequently for speeding has led to the development of an urban legend about police officers adapting the billiards game of snooker to their work:
A friend of a friend was determined to find a career where he could serve the public, be a useful member of society and make something of himself.
But he joined the police force instead. Breezing through the basic training, he quickly found himself 'partnered' with an old hand on traffic control.
They had a cracking Range Rover jam sandwich to cruise around in and the new rozzer was thoroughly enjoying the work. There was only one problem - his partner. He naturally respected his senior's experience, but some of his operational decisions were questionable, to say the least.
One day they were peacefully poised on a ramp by the motorway hard shoulder when the rookie spotted a flagrant abuse of Her Majesty's speed regulations. He eagerly pointed out the culprit.
The older man simply looked up, screwed his eyes, shrugged, and carried on reading his paper. This happened four or five times before the older cop set off in hot pursuit and pulled an offender in a red car.
This chain of events recurred throughout their shift: the older man ignoring some offenders and booking others seemingly on a whim. The lad initially kept his own counsel, but when his superior pulled yet another red car, he could take no more.
'Now l-look,' quavered the youngster, slamming down a Biro symbolically. 'Just what do you think you're blimming well playing at?' 'Snooker,' came the sharp reply. 'First you stop a red car, one point. Then a black car - that's seven - and so on until after
2) Similarly, don't drive black cars. Although they may look sleek, stylish, moody and expensive, earning seven points makes them the top target.
3) It's probably not a good idea to drive pink cars either. Not only are they high scorers, but the chances of looking sleek, stylish, moody or expensive are slim.
4) If you don't have a red car, you should still be wary. Driving behind them could make you liable for a swift one-two, with you both being "potted" in swift succession.
5) In the rules of the game, yellow, green and brown should be fairly safe bets, as they are low scoring. Getting a bad position after a red might give a playing officer no choice, though.
6) White cars are safest of all. Police cars, being white, act as the cue ball in the game. So if a white car is booked, it is tantamount to a foul and will count as four points away.
Barbara "unsnookered" Mikkelson
Sightings: In an episode of the television comedy The Big Bang Theory ("The Euclid Alternative," original air date
Last updated: 12 June 2014
Adair, Bill. "Color Doesn't Count in Tickets." St. Petersburg Times. 28 June 1990 (p. B1). Flanigan, Robin. "Red Offers Many Shades of Meaning." The [Albany] Times Union. 30 January 2005 (p. G7). Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill. "Urban Myths." The Guardian. 4 May 1996 (p. 67). Peige, John. "Is It the Color That Attracts All the Attention?" The Washington Times. 27 January 2006 (p. G1). BBC News Online. "Motorway Snooker: Pot Luck for Drivers?" 17 August 1999.