NHTSA Looking to Mandate Rear Turn-Signal Color

Left_LED_turn The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is asking for public comment on a proposed new regulation that would mandate vehicle rear turn signals to be amber-colored. Currently, they can be either amber or red, in accordance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108.

According to a study by NHTSA, amber rear turn signals have proved 5.3% more effective than red turn signals in preventing crashes. The study focused on “switch pairs,” which are vehicles that switched rear turn-signal color from one model year to the next, while controlling for “extraneous factors” such as vehicle and driver traits.

European countries already mandate that turn signals be amber, and although 5.3% sounds like a fairly small difference, NHTSA says it’s statistically significant and in line with other studies done on the subject. If automakers have to make a separate, colored turn signal in the rear it will cost more money for the domestics, but save money for automakers importing European models.

The comment period for the proposed regulation will last through Sept. 6.

By Stephen Markley | June 30, 2009 | Comments (28)
Tags: Safety



And what would the percentage improvement in preventing crashes be if people actually used their turn signals on a regular basis?


H, we wouldn't know because people (in general) will never consistently use their turn signals. Here in Boston people seem to treat it as a sign of surrender/weakness.


Further increase the safety factor by requiring outside mirror amber turn signals. Most light pick-ups and several car models already have this feature.


Outside mirror signals, amber colored lenses...none of it matters if drivers are too lazy to use them.


If they're really that much safer, great, mandate them. But I still hate the look of amber turn signals, I think that lights look soooo much better in all red or red and clear.


It's about time. When will they mandate and enforce the usage of turn signals?


Amber turn signals just means it has to blink orange. It doesn't mean that the plastic casing needs orange.


In Russia drivers woke up one day and had all their red turn signals ILLEGAL. That was something!
People were cutting their lights out gluing yellow strips.
They reversed the law soon. But it was funny in 2007. Suddenly, people couldn't ship American cars over there unless replaced the lights.


And the Europeans have been amber for how long? 1960s VW Beetles could be had that way in their home country,so,why did it take 40-50 years to finally figure it out....amber eliminates the confusion factor.Duh


Aside from the comments I read about people using their blinkers (which I agree, people should utilize their blinkers more), for those who do use blinkers, I definitely agree that amber lights should be standard on all cars. Cool or not cool, red on red lights are not easily seen and, therefore, not as safe. I also agree that lights should be on the mirrors and side of the cars.


I strongly support this! Where can I sign up?

The red turn signals sometimes confuses drivers behind to decide whether the vehicle in front is just simply doing manual ABS or are they actually making a turn signal!


i find it odd that some "imports" from Europe use red instead of amber on their cars, i.e. VW Jetta, BMW 3, etc....& y does Honda, Toyota, & now Hyundai change from amber to red when they refresh a car? The Civic just did the reverse tho, from red 2 amber...


Re: Amber turn signals on mirrors. I haven't had a vehicle so equipped, but I would think they would be distracting/disorienting to the driver at night.



it is only done for the American market


Dumb. Real dumb. Dumber than dumb.

More government intervention on the really small stuff while the big stuff (like solving deficits, pollution, oil dependency, wars we shouldn't be in, etc.) goes unsolved.

Dave Wuss

The WSJ did an article covering the effect lobbying has on industries. In 1994 Mazda and Subaru lead an effort to have amber turn signals become standard. GM didn't like the additional expense so they paid $175,000 to a lobbying firm, The Duberstein Group, to prevent the bill from making it to the floor. Maz & Sub argued that it would provide additional safety benefits. It's interesting to see how different companies look at their consumers safety as either an expense or as the right thing to do.



Don't burn your pipes.
The government agency responsible for this will be there no matter what other problems we have. At least, this is not a bad thing this time, what they do.
All the other issues you've mentioned ("...solving deficits, pollution, oil dependency, wars we shouldn't be in..."), you should forward to your representative, or even directly to President Obama.

S Dana Williams

North American vehicles should have the rear amber turn signals. There is a reason why rear amber turn signals are the standard through most of the world. Side turn signal "repeaters" on fenders or mirrors are also a good idea.
Now if we could just get more drivers to use turn signals....

Ronald D. Miller

Yes, make them amber!!!!!!



As you said, this has been tried before. With GM now on it's knees and (if we're lucky) no longer able to interfere, perhaps this very common sense measure can finally become law.

A note to foreign automakers who put red signals on their US models (BMW, VW, Audi, Honda, Acura, etc)... you should be ashamed of yourselves! Your own home countries do not even allow this! And to think that you like to be known for engineering and safety.

Ben S.

Honda's entire line-up (except Ridgeline) has amber turn signals.


WHY? 5.2% is less than significant, statistically speaking. Why mandate the manufacture change. If they want to sell their car in the USA they have a choice, it they want to sell across the pond, they have to use amber. It is their choice.
Don't we have enough problems and issues to address. Lets start this by mandating that the drivers USE their turn signals.


I am puzzled also, why do imports changed their signals to red in N. Am market. Isn't it cheaper to just produce one kind of lense than two? Audi even has gone as far as using the same lamp for brake light and signal. Rather backward. They are supposed to be ahead of the pack.


I have been waiting a long time to see this happen and hopefully it will happen for real. Red turn signals are very confusing especially when the car in front of you is braking and turning at the same time. With amber it provides a clear distinction which can be very important in a situation where every second counts. As for Automakers both foreign and US complaining about the increased cost of such a mandate then that is absolutely BS. The foreign automakers from Europe, Japan and Korea already make these vehicles with the amber rear turn signals for sale in just about all countries outside of the US. Generally they will keep it amber for the US market, but sometimes they go the extra mile and trouble of changing it to red. Why?? Same thing with the Big three in the US. Some models sold in the US are also sold in other countries that mandate orange. Why would it be so hard to just change it all to orange and do away with the red. It would be a win win for both the US and foreign manufacturers. Of course there would be small differences in the US and foreign light assembly based on certain government requirements like red rear facing fog lights for some European countries, but overall we would have one universal standard worldwide which is Red(brake/rear night lights), Amber(Turn signal)and White(reverse light). I addition while they are thinking about doing this they should also make side turn signals mandatory also. The foreign cars have them as required by law for most countries outside the US, but they are sometimes eliminated for the US market or added as an option package of some type if you pay extra for a certain package. This should not be the case. This is a safety feature and all cars should have them regardless of the model or trim. If they didn't serve a purpose then the automakers would be more then happy not to install them which would save them money. Trucks(excluding pickup trucks) and buses have to have them so why not cars too.

I strongly support this! Where can I sign up?

The red turn signals sometimes confuses drivers behind to decide whether the vehicle in front is just simply doing manual ABS or are they actually making a turn signal!

Caleb Pang

i am 17. and i have always been into cars. when i was younger i always liked the amber turn signals. i would think why not make a separate color turn signals. now having a license and driven at least 25k miles. i hate it when people have cars with red turning signals. especially when there is only 1 light for everything (brake and turn signal.) even if you are looking straight at it its hard to tell weather the person is tapping the brakes or turning. if you have to stop for something. and throw on your hazards. from a distance you can make out the yellow. but red. people are used to seeing red. but people associate yellow with cation signs and warnings. when its dark out it makes a huge difference. both of my families cars (06 sedona, and 02 prizm) have amber trun signals. when i buy my car. or recommend one. i always recommend amber turn signals. for me. its my pet peeve.

so yea where do i sign up


I hate red turn signals! Its very confusing. Especially the ones that use the same one for braking are the worst. All Europe uses amber and the cars still look great! Lexus has amber standard even in the US. I like that!

David Turner

The amber lights are European and Rest of the World Spec not for safety reasons but for financial reasons.
The US market is more competitive and cheaper than the rest of the world. The same BMW X5 I just purchased was US$70K here in the US.In Germany it is over $110000. VAT and 10% import duty aside there is still a significant difference in pricing. It is illegal for US lighting cars to drive in Europe and most other countries where the amber/EU Glass/Light color is mandated as amber. Try buying EU Tail lights from a dealer in Europe. I tried. They insist on the VIN number (even if you give them the year and model) and will refuse to sell them to you (unless maybe at an inflated fee over $5000!) It is all about market protection.

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