Singapore taxis kMy chemistry teacher was one of the most conservative people I’ve ever met, and yet he drove a station wagon that was bright red. This confused me because it seemed so out of kilter with everything else about the man, in fact it confused me so much that one day I gathered up the courage to ask him why he’d bought a car that stood out like a steak in a vegan restaurant. He explained that red cars are far more obvious in traffic, and thus other drivers were less likely to run into them. “It’s all about safety,” he said. “How many people run into fire trucks?” In this context his decision to buy a red car fitted his persona to a T.

But maybe he may have got the colour wrong. A road safety study has just been carried out on taxis in Singapore and it suggests you’re safer in a yellow one.

Researcher Dr Ho Teck Hua of the National University of Singapore thus reasoned that any differences in their safety records could be attributed to their colour, and so he examined three years’ worth of accident data supplied by the firm, and has just published the results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Singapore taxis mBlue taxis were involved in 71.7 accidents per thousand vehicles per month, and yellow ones in 65.6. In other words yellow taxis were nine per cent less likely to be involved in an accident.

To ensure that the drivers of blue cars did not differ from the yellow drivers Dr Ho and his team picked 20 per cent of ComfortDelGro’s drivers at random and studied their behaviour, revealing that there were no meaningful differences between drivers of blue cars and drivers of yellow cars. Then they studied the detailed accident reports paying special attention to lighting at the time.

Singapore taxis fThis suggested that when both blue and yellow taxis were clearly in view of other cars, yellow taxis were less likely to be hit than blue ones, and also that yellow taxis were safer at night since yellow contrasts more strongly with a dark background. In conditions where street lighting was operational, that is after sunset, yellow taxis experienced 4.5 fewer accidents per 1000 cars per month than blue ones, while in daylight the figure was two.

Based on this Dr Ho reasoned that if ComfortDelGro changed its entire fleet to yellow it would record 917 fewer accidents per year and save around $2 million. That’s why you’ll see some yellow taxis in Singapore wearing Comfort branding – the company seems to be changing the colour from blue to yellow as it puts on new cars.

Published July 2017

 

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