Is Your Car’s Backup Camera Really Helpful?

safety issues of backup camerasMany newer models of cars are now equipped with a backup camera. Along with the camera, many car crashes can be preventable if drivers take the proper precautions and are aware of their surroundings when backing up.

According to, every year thousands of children are killed or seriously injured because a driver backing up did not see them. While kids may be the most common victims of these incidents, anyone can be injured and hurt due to someone’s negligence or recklessness while backing up.

Backing Up Crash Facts

All drivers have blindspots when they are behind the wheel. They also have a blind zone. A blind zone is the area behind the vehicle that the driver cannot see when looking and using the rear and side mirrors. According to, the average blind zone is 15-25 feet. Additionally, the shorter the driver, the larger the blind zone, so height plays a part here.

Backover incidents take place mainly in driveways and parking lots, as those are the most common areas for one to backup in. Sadly, in over 7 percent of these incidents, it is a parent or close relative that is the driver behind the wheel. On average, there are 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries every year due to backover crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The prime age of backover victims is one-year-old. As many parents know, at this age, toddlers have just started walking and are testing their limits and trying new things. In fact, those under 5 years of age account for 31 percent of the fatalities each year, though adults 70 years of age and older account for another 26 percent.

Safety Tips

One safety tip to prevent these incidents is to install a backup camera and other sensors. You don’t have to purchase a new vehicle to get these assets, a camera and/or sensors can be installed in any vehicle. However, you should also increase your personal awareness when your vehicle is in reverse. Some safety tips include:

  • Walk behind and around the vehicle before entering it and moving it.
  • Know where your children are and/or other known children in the area.
  • Teach children that “parked” vehicles may move and make sure they understand that the driver in a car may not be able to see them.
  • Remind your children to never play in, around or behind a vehicle.
  • Remember that steep inclines and large SUVs, trucks, and vans can add to the difficulty of seeing behind a car.
  • Keep toys, bikes and other sports equipment out of the driveway.
  • Roll down the driver’s side window when backing up so you can hear if someone is warning you to stop.

Benefits and Restrictions of Backup Cameras

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), backup cameras are more effective than parking sensors with helping drivers avoid objects while going in reverse. However, they don’t help in every situation.

An IIHS study shows that the camera helps prevent more backover crashes involving pedestrians. In the original study the IIHS measured the visibility of children to an average size male driver, and the degree to which the technology (camera and sensors) improved visibility and detection. It found that without the added technology, large SUVs had the worst rear visibility, and small cars had the best. So beware, the larger your vehicle, the less visibility you have.

The study also found, that backup cameras reduced the blind zone by about 90 percent on average. Parking sensors also reduced blind zones, but not as much.

The second study used volunteer drivers. It found that drivers who had both a camera and sensors, actually had less of a benefit than those with a camera alone. In fact, three-quarters of these drivers hit the stationary object behind them. It begs the question, whether the sensors gave the driver a false sense of security, and had them paying less attention to the camera. Since the sensors only detect objects up to 8 feet behind the vehicle, they are generally less helpful.

However, backup cameras didn’t prevent all collisions. The study found that if the object was in the shade, almost every driver who looked at the camera display still hit it. So, it is important to remember that weather and lightening conditions can affect the usefulness of cameras.

This study shows that while backup cameras are extremely useful, enough for the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration to issue a final rule requiring rear visibility technology in all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds by May 2018, they are not 100 percent foolproof. As part of the rule, all new vehicles will require a view of at least 10 foot by 20 foot zone directly behind the vehicle. However, we need to always be aware of our surroundings, beyond what is on the display. Be aware of your blind zone, and always be extra careful when backing out of a driveway or parking lot.

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