The Real Pros and Cons of Car Backup Cameras

backup cameraBacking out of a parking space in a train-station parking lot, I heard a small crunch. Uh-oh, I thought. I stopped the car, got out and saw I had run over the unoccupied stroller I’d left sitting there. From the driver’s seat, I had no way of seeing it behind me.

And that was scary.

Incidents like these — involving serious injuries, not just damage to a $20 stroller — are far too common. Backover child fatalities began rising in the 2000s, along with the increasing popularity of large SUVs. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says 292 people are killed and 18,000 people are injured each year by drivers who back into them.

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of backup cameras.

In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided to make backup cameras mandatory on all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds manufactured after May 2018. The backup camera must show a 10-foot-by-20-foot area behind the vehicle. But will mandatory rear view cameras reduce accidents?

The pros of a backup camera

They help drivers avoid hitting people, animals and objects they can’t see.

You can be a super careful, cautious driver and still miss seeing something immediately behind your vehicle. Rear blind spots are really big: 15 feet for smaller cars to more than 25 feet when you’re driving a large pickup truck or SUV. Autotrader says: “A pet, a child or even a small adult wandering into that blind zone is at risk.” The smaller the child, the larger the blind zone. IIHS research shows that backup cameras reduce the blind zone by about 90 percent, on average.

They don’t add much to the cost of a car.

When you buy a new vehicle now, if the reverse camera doesn’t come standard you may have to pay thousands for an options package that includes it. However, the NHTSA says its mandate that all cars must include a camera will only add $40 to $140 to the cost of new vehicles. That’s pretty cheap for potentially lifesaving car safety technology.

Parallel parking is easier with a backup camera.

If you don’t know how to parallel park, a rear view camera will definitely help. However, there are only five steps to know to master parallel parking, which comes in handy even with a backup camera.

The cons of backup cameras

They don’t do enough to reduce accidents.

Between 2008 and 2011, the number of vehicles sold with backup cameras more than doubled, from 32 percent to 68 percent of all new cars sold. However, injuries caused by cars backing up dropped by less than 8 percent, from about 13,000 down to 12,000.

Why such a slight decline? Drivers still don’t do a good job of looking around their vehicles when they’re backing up. And sometimes they’re distracted.

They may create a false sense of security.

Almost all of the rear blind zone can be covered by mirrors, a rear-view camera and glancing over your shoulder while backing up. However, the camera alone can’t show the driver everything. Even after taking every precaution, there are still two blind spots at the rear corners of the SUV. When everyone has a backup camera, will they still remember to check the mirrors and their surroundings?

A reverse camera can’t prevent “frontover” accidents.

According to KidsAndCars, there’s a new car safety crisis: fatal (non-traffic) accidents in which a vehicle rolls over a child while moving forward. “Frontover” fatalities have risen from 24 between 1996 and 2000 to 358 between 2006 and 2010. The increase in truck and SUV size may be the cause of the rise, as the larger size creates a large blind spot in front of a vehicle. Surround-view cameras, which give a 360-degree perspective of what’s around your car, can help. But in the end, there’s no substitute for careful, deliberate inspection of your environment.

Here’s another way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe: Upgrade your auto insurance. It’s easy to get free quotes and compare coverage on Here’s how it works.

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