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The color of your car might be wrecking your life

We spend hours looking at swatches to find the perfect color for our living rooms. We buy clothes based on the colors that make us look good and tell others something about us. Many restaurants even pick their color schemes based on our reaction to certain hues.

So if color has such a connection to those areas of our lives, it would stand to reason that color has an effect on/or is affected by our lives behind the wheel. But what effects?

For example, we’ve all heard the rumors about red cars attracting speeding tickets like bugs to windshields (the really big, messy ones, that is). Is there any truth to it? And what about other colors? Are they secretly enhancing, complicating (or ruining) your life?

Saucy red numbers

Asking if drivers of red cars really get more speeding tickets is sort of like asking if blondes really do have more fun. It’s all in the attitude of the person at the wheel.

My local Boys in Blue didn’t want to go on the record as saying so, but ask anyone who owns an “arrest-me red” car and you’ll get a pretty good idea.

“All of my life I’ve owned blue cars,” says Madison Dunnigan. “I purchased a red Mustang (last) summer and I’ve been caught speeding four times.”

Not to knock Miss Dunnigan, but it could be a user error. Who wouldn’t feel compelled to race around in a red Mustang?

Psychologist Daniel Ridbey, who has studied color therapy, says red increases your breathing and heart rate, which in turn could ratchet up the glee and give you a heavier foot.

“When your heart rate quickens, you do everything faster … driving, talking, eating,” he says.

Bottom line? It’s not the color, but what the color does to you.

Black cars look better in the shade

Henry Ford is known for saying that he would sell cars in any color as long as they were black. But I wonder if Hank would have rethought that position if he heard that black cars show every indiscretion. I mean everything. Just wash it and watch the dust settle on it. Really. You can watch it accumulate.

Black also shows swirl marks, sap, scratches and general lack of maintenance. The man who details our road-test and project cars for their photo shoots says it’s because there’s a bigger contrast between the light reflecting off the surface and the deep, dark black paint. The shinier the paint, the worse the overall problem.

The best color to hide a multitude of owner-related sins?

“Silver, without a doubt,” he says. “Scratches are camouflaged and they don’t show the dirt like a white car does.”

If you’re nuts about cleanliness and detail and then top it off by buying a black car, you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to keep it clean and spend pretty much all your free time picking out the imperfections, now amplified by the black. If you’re OK with this, then have at it.

White as the freshly driven snow

Wheelbase editor Jeff Melnychuk says he would never buy white … again. It’s funny how you make these choices only to regret them later.

“They are high maintenance, that’s for sure,” he says. “That’s good for a detailing business, but it’s frustrating for owners. They spend a lot of money to clean their car and by the time they get home, they’ve driven through puddles or slush, or even just the dust and dirt flying up — they’re like magnets for dirt.”

On the up side, big, white cars often look like big, white police cars. If you notice that traffic is tip-toeing around you’re white Ford Crown Victoria or Chevrolet Impala — because you might be the real thing — you may be reaping some subliminal safety benefits from your color/model choice. Just sayin’.

Cracking up over blue

It’s one of the most popular color choices for a car, according to a research study conducted by students at Andrew S. Douglas Community Academy in Milwaukee, Wis. Insurance representative Nancy Martoni can’t prove that if you own a blue car you’re at greater risk of a fender bender, but, due to the sheer popularity of the color, “I would say probably about 60-65 percent of the claims I handle have involved blue- or gray-toned cars.”

One of Martoni’s clients, who has written off four cars — three of which were blue — once joked that blue cars are like green screens in movies.

“It’s like you can’t see them,” she says. “It’s almost like they blend in with the sky or something.”

Her recommendation?

“Go with a bright yellow … it’s bright and cheery. How could you miss it?”

Rhonda Wheeler is a journalist with Wheelbase Media, a worldwide supplier of automotive news, features and reviews. You can email her by logging on to www.wheelbasemedia.com and clicking the contact link.

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