Modern cars are packed with features designed to protect you in the event of an accident, and carmakers have to satisfy a litany of safety regulations in order to be approved for sale.
However, when it comes to
road safetythere is one glaring oversight in this country, and that’s the continued use of red turn signals.
You might never have considered red turn signals to be an issue, but for decades, studies have shown amber turn signals to be significantly safer, massively reducing the chance of a rear-end collision.
Consequently, most developed countries have made amber turn signals a legal requirement, but not the U.S., which still gives manufacturers the choice.
What’s the problem with red turn signals?
As reported by
Road & Track, our government knows that amber turn signals can save lives. A 2008 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that vehicles with red turn signals are 22% more likely to be hit from behind when changing lanes or making a turn.
This is not because amber turn signals are easier to see, but they help to differentiate between turning and braking. If you see a red tail light ahead, you have to wait to see if it starts blinking to know if the driver is turning or braking. With an amber turn signal, you immediately know the driver’s intent. There is no ambiguity.
You might not consciously act differently when confronted by a red or amber tail light, but our brains can detect color-coded signals very quickly. A split-second difference can save lives, especially when driving on a fast-moving highway.
Why does the U.S. still allow red turn signals?
Most countries, including those in the European Union, have already banned red turn signals. So why are we lagging behind?
The most obvious answer is money. By allowing red turn signals, automakers can save a few bucks with a monochrome lamp housing, and Americans aren’t agitating for a change.
However, it is shortsighted: a 22% decrease in rear-endings would save drivers billions of dollars in repair costs, while also reducing the number of injuries and deaths on our roads.
Frustratingly, carmakers are willing to splurge on expensive technologies like
brighter headlightsand radar sensors, but are lacking the motivation to make the relatively simple and inexpensive switch to amber turn signals.
Road & Track says there are rumors that the NHTSA are going to add amber turn signals to the criteria that makes up a five star safety rating. If this is true, we can expect American car makers to finally join their European counterparts in implementing the change, but it’s a shame it has taken so long.