How Safe Are Vehicle Backup Cameras?

How Safe Are Vehicle Backup Cameras?Putting your vehicle in reverse and backing out of a driveway or parking spot can be a risky maneuver – it’s difficult to see behind your own car because of its various blind spots, no matter if it’s a big truck or small hybrid. Manufacturers began voluntarily adding rear-view backup cameras to their vehicles (usually for an extra price) around 2008 to help avoid this issue and make it easier for drivers to see behind them when reversing their cars.

Then, in 2014, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) made backup cameras mandatory on all new vehicles beginning May 1, 2018. Although this was a huge step forward for safety advocates, those same experts also warn that backup cameras can lull drivers into a false sense of security, and motorists should not rely solely on them to avoid accidents.

Why do cars need backup cameras?

Proponents of backup cameras – and there really aren’t any opponents of backup cameras – emphasize that they can save lives. More, backup cameras save children’s lives, as they are most often the tragic victims of backover car accidents, and much of the advocacy and push for vehicle cameras came from these losses. In fact, the children’s safety organization Kids and Cars states that, across the country, 50 children are backed over by vehicles every week because drivers failed to see them.

Kids and Cars reports the following:

  • “Most drivers are unaware of the very large, dangerous blindzone that is found behind ALL vehicles.
  • Children do not understand the danger of a slow moving vehicle; they believe if they see the vehicle, the driver can see them.
  • Children do not recognize boundaries (property lines, sidewalks, driveways or parking spaces) and are very impulsive.”

They also note that the predominant age of child backover victims is only one year old, and the average age is between one and five years old. Finally, they urge consumers: “Kids and Car Safety is beginning to see rearview cameras reduce backover crashes. Education and awareness of backover crashes will continue to be critical for decades because most older-model vehicles do not have rearview cameras. All vehicles can and should be retrofitted to include rearview technology.”

How do vehicle backup cameras work?

Generally, a car’s backup camera uses rear-facing cameras unobtrusively mounted to the back of your vehicle. These display on a monitor, usually on the center console of your dashboard. The cameras show a wide-angle or fisheye view behind the vehicle and switch on automatically when you put the car in reverse. Most displays show the driver onscreen parallel lines to help guide a safe path backward, as well as notify them of any objects or people in their path. Shifting back into drive or park turns the camera off.

Cool car trivia! The very first backup camera appeared in 1956 at the Motorama Auto Show.
The Buick Centurion was a concept car featuring a rear camera, sunroof, and bucket seats.

What are the limitations of backup cameras?

It’s true that backup cameras reduce blind spots and the risk of backover accidents; however, they do have their limitations. Nothing can replace a visual check, and not every backup camera is the same. Car site Motorbiscuit notes that backup camera quality and technology can vary significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer, pointing out, “Yes, a sub-$16,000 2020 Kia Rio has a backup camera, as does a $400,000 Rolls-Royce Cullinan. But it’s entirely possible the Rio’s camera has a lower resolution than your smartphone’s camera. And that’s before taking into account dirt or other lens obstructions.”

They also note, “Ultimately, backup cameras are an additional tool for a driver. They expand your rear view, but they should still be used in conjunction with the standard reversing techniques. That means checking every rear blind spot, including the side ones, and paying attention to what’s going on there.”

How do I safely prevent a backover accident in Las Vegas or Reno?

When you’re using a backup camera, it’s tempting to keep your eyes on the screen and nothing else. However, as Motorbiscuit reminds us, your backup camera is only one tool in your safety arsenal. The most effective way to use backup camera technology is to check around your vehicle before getting in, then both side mirrors and rear-view mirror, then use your backup camera to slowly reverse.

As Jessica Cicchino, VP of Research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, told the Washington Post, “Deaths from back over crashes thankfully are pretty rare, but they are still tragic. We know that rear cameras help, but they are not a silver bullet.”

The NHTSA also provides the following tips to keep children safe from backover accidents:

  • Teach children that it’s not safe to play in or around cars.
  • Supervise children when in or around vehicles.
  • Walk behind and around your vehicle to check the area before backing up.
  • Back up slowly while looking behind you in case something moves quickly into your path.
  • Be extra alert if you drive a larger vehicle, as that means larger blind spots.
  • Teach kids to keep their toys and bikes out of driveways and parking areas.
  • Don’t rely solely on your rearview camera when backing up. Use your mirrors and a visual check.

If you or your child were injured in a backover car accident in Reno or Las Vegas – or any other type of accident – talk to the personal injury attorneys at Claggett & Sykes today. We can help determine how and why the accident happened and who should be held responsible. We’ll work to secure compensation for your injuries, losses, and pain and suffering.

To schedule a free consultation with a Las Vegas injury lawyer today, call 702-333-7777, or fill out our contact form. Or, if you’ve been injured in northern Nevada, call our Reno injury lawyers at 775-322-2923.