By Chuck Mai, AAA
Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a new regulation telling automakers to put rear-view cameras in all passenger vehicles by 2014. It’s probably a good idea. Such cameras can help prevent injuries and deaths because they’re useful in detecting people and objects behind the vehicle. However, this technology is limited in its ability to identify objects approaching the path of the backing vehicle. That’s something to keep in mind.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety was interested in finding out more about how average motorists are reacting to these new onboard cameras and the implications for safety. So, the Foundation launched a study.
Here are some key findings:
o Many drivers are not aware of the limitations of their sensor-based backing aids. There were several scenarios in which respondents reported that their backing aid system would help them to avoid a collision “fairly well” or “perfectly,” when in reality it would be likely to work poorly or not work at all. These included:
Backing up to a narrow sign post (87%).
Backing out of a parking space and there is a pedestrian standing ten feet behind the rear bumper (78%).
Backing quickly down a long driveway, going about ten mph, and there is a bicycle behind the vehicle (68%).
Backing out of a garage when there is a child immediately under the bumper (53%).
Backing out of a driveway onto a street and into the path of an oncoming car (53%).
o Some respondents reported using their backing aid (12%) or rear-view camera (17%) without checking their mirrors or turning to look out the rear window.
o Some respondents with backing aids (23%) claimed to look over their shoulders less often with the system than without the system.
o Some respondents claimed that they would back much more slowly if they did not have a backing aid (40%) or a rear-view camera (27%).
o Nearly one in five respondents who owned a vehicle with a backing aid system reported having experienced a backing collision or “close call” while they were driving another vehicle—without a backing aid system—because they expected to receive a warning (18%).
o Compared to younger respondents, older respondents with rear-view cameras were less likely to say that having a rear-view camera makes them safer.
o The majority (93%) of those with rear-view cameras would want one on their next vehicle.
A word of caution: motorists who have vehicles equipped with this technology would be wise to use it to supplement—not replace—traditional efforts to turn and check blind spots (both rear and lateral) while backing up.