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Black is the colour of risk on roads

PEOPLE driving black cars are nearly 20 per cent more likely to be injured or killed in accidents than average, according to statistics collected by the Department of Transport.

Out of every 10,000 black cars, 179 were involved in accidents in 1990, with white being the next most dangerous on 160, followed by red. The average was 150 and the safest were brown and yellow, both with 133, followed by green.

The DoT's statisticians offer only tentative explanations for these figures, suggesting that 'some colours may tend to be associated with particular makes and models of cars'. The popularity of white for high performance cars may indeed explain why newer white cars - those registered after 1985 - have an accident rate of 170 compared with older ones which only had 145 accidents involving injury. The statisticians recognise that visibility is also bound to be a factor.

The study's main figures were first published in July this year, showing that road deaths in 1991 totalled 4,568 - 12 per cent fewer than the 5,217 figure for 1990.

Using figures for drivers over 40, it finds that 72 out of 1,000 male drivers have an accident every year compared with 59 out of 1,000 women drivers. However, women tend to average only 4,300 miles per year compared with 9,100 for men, which gives women an accident rate of 13.7 accidents per million miles compared with men's score of 7.9.

Women can counter that a doubling of mileage only leads to a 30 per cent increase in accidents which, according to the report, 'suggests that the difference in accident rate between men and women is largely due to their differing mileages'.

For younger drivers the results are unequivocal. The authors of the report say, 'young men (have) more accidents than young women'.

Looking at changes over the past 40 years, the proportion of people in accidents who are killed or seriously injured has decreased for all road users. For example, only 14 per cent of vehicle occupants involved in accidents were killed in 1991, compared with 21 per cent in 1951.

Bicycle casualties fell 70 per cent, reflecting a drop in usage, while pedestrian deaths fell by 38 per cent.

And in 1951, 64 pedestrians were killed after being knocked down by cyclists while in 1991 there was just one such fatality.

Road Accidents Great Britain 1991, HMSO, pounds 10.95.