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IIHS Tests Rearview Cameras, Parking Sensors as Safety Technologies

March 17, 2014

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently tested two safety features commonly found in new vehicles to see if these can help drivers prevent backover incidents, wherein vehicles back over an individual when coming out of a driveway or parking space. The two technologies tested were rearview cameras and parking sensors.

The IIHS enlisted the help of 111 volunteers, all of which were unaware that they participated in a rearview camera test. The individuals volunteered to test the infotainment systems, but they were asked to back out of a spot to go back to the entrance of the lot. A child-sized foam crash dummy was situated behind the vehicle as part of the test.

Rearview cameras are considered as an important safety feature in new generation vehicles. Research has implied that such cameras do lower the risk of backup collisions, and the technology was eventually included in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) list of recommended safety features last September. However, according to the IIHS’s study, while rearview cameras can indeed reduce the risk of backovers, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

The dummy placed behind the vehicle was stationary, but it was hit 56 percent of the time even when drivers used a rearview camera to back out. The technology was discovered to be effective in decreasing blind zones by about 90 percent, but it is not foolproof. Even in instances where drivers used the rear camera along with rearview mirrors and side mirrors, there was still room for error. Blind zones close to the bumpers are still a concern, and the cameras proved to be less reliable in certain lighting conditions, such as shade.

Surprisingly, the use of both rearview cameras and parking sensors was found to be less effective than the use of just the cameras. The study found that the sensors were not as reliable because they activated a little too late to allow the driver to brake before crashing into the dummy. Among 16 drivers who relied on parking sensors alone, only one successfully avoided collision.

While the parking sensors were not as effective in avoiding backover incidents, the technology is still better than no technology at all. As expected, all drivers who did not have either technology to help them back out crashed into the dummy. When the dummy was in motion, it was found that drivers were less likely to hit it compared to when it is stationary.

The IIHS study suggests that while current safety technologies are imperfect, they are a step in the right direction. Automakers should continue working on these technologies as well as vehicle designs that allows good visibility. Good visibility, which begins with great automobile design, can better enable drivers to prevent backover collisions.

Backover accidents are a serious problem in the United States. These injure 18,000 and kill 292 people annually. Young children, as well as the elderly, are the most at risk for these accidents. Vehicles frequently involved in these accidents are large pickup trucks and SUVs, as these have the worst blind spots.

Photo credit: Leah Jones/ Flickr/ CC BY

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