HomeHealthArchivesNov 2007



Color Me Deficient

Color blindness is not a black and white issue. It's very rare, actually, for people to just see white, black and gray and nothing else. According to the University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, the more common condition we call color blindness is more accurately described as a defect or deficiency in color vision-usually an inability to distinguish reds from greens.

The first study of color-deficient vision was published in 1794 by a physicist who also suffered from it; a Quaker, he once caused a ruckus by showing up at work in a pair of red hose, thinking them brown.

Confusing red and green is not a great disability under most circumstances-the exception being driving. There's evidence that color-deficient drivers take longer to respond to traffic lights, and that they're involved in more rear-end collisions than other drivers.

Today's traffic signals are designed to make things easier for the color-deficient. One example is the standard green-on-the-bottom, amber-in-the-middle, red-on-top design of traffic lights. Another is the white border around the edge of most stop signs.

Yet to be resolved, though, is the problem of brake lights' color. Red is the hardest color to pick up, even for people with normal vision. For people with color-deficient vision, experts recommend leaving plenty of space between their car and the one ahead-about twice the normal distance.