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Color doesn't count in tickets

Published Jun. 28, 1990|Updated Oct. 17, 2005

Urban folklore says drivers of red cars get more speeding tickets. Theories abound. One says that red-car owners are lead-footed speed demons. Another one claims that police are more likely to stop red cars because the cars are easier to see.

So much for urban folklore.

Drivers of red cars do not get an excessive share of speeding tickets, according to a Times non-scientific survey of more than 900 tickets. Red cars accounted for 14 percent of the vehicles surveyed on the road and got about 16 percent of the speeding tickets _ not a significant difference.

Red cars "are treated the same as anyone else," said Lt. Harold Frear of the Florida Highway Patrol. "You are just as apt to see a silver Cadillac come by you at 90 as you are a red Porsche."

So the red-car theory fizzled.

But the Times survey did have one surprising result. The survey found that white cars got fewer tickets proportionately than other cars.

White cars accounted for 25 percent of the vehicles surveyed on the road. But they got only 19 percent of the tickets.

Could that indicate that drivers of white cars are more conservative and cautious?

No, said police and the manager of an Earl Scheib Auto Painting shop.

"I own a white sports car and I'm not more conservative than anybody else," said John Crossen, manager of the Earl Scheib store in Clearwater. He thinks white cars get fewer tickets because police don't see them as easily against the road's background.

To conduct the survey, the Times used a sophisticated mathematical technique: counting.

A reporter counted 1,198 cars at four locations in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to determine the color mix of all cars on the road. The reporter also reviewed 924 speeding tickets in the two counties and kept track of the car colors.

The survey found:

Drivers of gray cars got 10 percent of the tickets, even though those cars accounted for only 6 percent of cars on the road.

Drivers of silver cars got only 5 percent of the tickets, while silver cars represented 10 percent of the car population.

Some police officers were very precise in their color descriptions. On a few speeding tickets, car colors were listed as "sandalwood," "aqua" and "champagne."

The results for red cars contradict years of rumors.

Not only have the rumors said they get more speeding tickets, but some rumors said insurance companies charge more for red cars.

But officials at the industry's trade association and four insurance companies said they did not know of any companies that charge higher prices based on a car's color.

"When I asked our underwriting person about it, he laughed," said Jody Goulden, a spokeswoman for GEICO, a Washington, D.C.-based insurance company.

The red-car myth apparently is rooted in the tradition of red sports cars.

"Traditionally, the real hot ones have been red," Frear said. "That is synonymous with speed."

Crossen of Earl Scheib said color preferences vary with the age of the driver.

"The younger people are the ones who want the red and black cars," he said. "Your older people are more conservative and go for your blues, greens and whites."

Police said the speeding-ticket survey proves that they don't discriminate against red cars.

"It's not the color of the car that matters," said Sgt. Thomas Miller of the Clearwater police traffic enforcement unit. "It's how fast it's going."

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