Last week, I wrote about the deceptive nature of the VW Tiguan’s taillights — specifically, that they have an amber section that isn’t used for the turn signal. The post proved much more popular than I’d have guessed, and sparked a lot of interesting debate about the use of amber rear indicators. Let’s settle this question.
Here’s the fundamental issue: the US (and Canada, but they’re just piggybacking on our regs) is the only place in the world where the rear turn indicator may be red, instead of orange/yellow/amber. Up front, indicators need to cast an amber light to differentiate from the white headlamps, but out rear you can actually just use one red-shining bulb for stop/tail/turn functions, as many cars do — especially trucks and jeeps and other vehicles that use off-the-shelf cheap trailer-type lights.
Studies have shown that amber rear indicators are more visible, and as a result, safer. In fact, a 2009 study by the NHTSA found a “statistically significant” accident-reduction for cars using amber rear indicators. Here’s the summary:
The principal finding of the report is that amber signals show a 5.3% effectiveness in reducing involvement in two-vehicle crashes where a lead vehicle is rear-struck in the act of turning left, turning right, merging into traffic, changing lanes, or entering/leaving a parking space. The advantage of amber rear turn signals is shown to be statistically significant.
Explorer 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
Comfortable for anyone
Nnjoy the water but don’t want to deal with the hassle of traditional kayaks? This is portable, lightweight, and easy to store when not in use.
That’s just a recent study. Here’s a 1977 Volkswagen study that came to essentially the same conclusions.
While there certainly have been plenty of American cars with amber indicators, generally, American car makers seem to prefer all-red (except for the clear reverse light, of course) taillights. And many foreign car makers have red-indicator lights for their US-spec cars, too. Some of the reason may be stylistic — the less colorful lights can look cleaner, in some contexts — and some of the reason may be cheapness — why use two bulbs/LEDs when one set will do?
Personally, I think I prefer amber rear indicators. I kind of like the way they look in a taillight, and I do think they’re more instantly identifiable. Usually it’s not an issue, but there have been times when a car with a burned-out brake light has looked like it’s indicating a turn, for example. Plus, there’s lots of ways to have the whole lens look red and have the light shine amber, so why not use a different color?
But I want to hear what all of you think, so I can see what the Jalop consensus is.
So have at it. This is a matter of vital importance.