From The Truth About Turn Signals by Daniel Stern
Last Autumn, NHTSA released tentative findings that amber (”yellow”) rear turn signals are up to 28 percent more effective than red ones, depending on the type of crash. Now they’ve released preliminary findings that vehicles with amber rear indicators are overall 5.3 percent less likely to be hit from behind than otherwise-identical vehicles with red ones. The benefit compares, says the report, to the enduring 4.3 percent crash avoidance benefit of the center 3rd brake light (CHMSL) mandated in 1986. This tippytoeing through the tulips with tentative and preliminary findings seems more than a little precious. Amber rear signals are required in Europe, the UK, Australia, Japan, China, and virtually the entire rest of the industrialized world outside North America; red ones have been banned for thirty-five to fifty years.
An international effort to develop a single global lighting equipment standard based on best practices worldwide—it would have saved money and improved safety, and compliance would’ve been optional—was single-handedly killed a couple of years ago by NHTSA’s insistence that the rest of the world would have to roll back their regulations to accept red rear signals. Best practice . . . ? But that was apparently then, and this is now: NHTSA requests public comment on their preliminary findings. Perhaps it’s time to think about admitting that the rest of the world might not have been completely out to lunch. Who knows where this could lead . . . mandatory side-on visibility of turn signals? Naw, no real benefit there. Right, NHTSA?