According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), every year an estimated 292 people are killed and 18,000 are injured when drivers back into them. These types of accidents usually occur in driveways or parking lots, and young children and the elderly are most likely to be killed in such crashes. The risk of backing over someone is increased by the large blind zones of many vehicles, which don’t allow drivers to see objects behind the bumper, in particular, those objects, which are low to the ground. Pickup trucks and SUVs, which have the largest blind zones, are typically involved in more backover crashes than cars. According to a study conducted by IIHS, rear cameras appear to be the most promising technology available for thwarting such crashes.

The IIHS study, conducted with volunteer drivers in an empty parking lot, measured the blind zones of various vehicles in relation to different size children represented by markings on a moveable pole. Mostly, small cars were found to have the best visibility while large SUVs had the worst. Generally speaking, without the added technology, the larger the vehicle, the worse its visibility. However, with the rearview cameras, the blind zones of vehicles were reduced by about 90% on average.

How Drivers Use the Technology In a related analysis of the effectiveness of rearview cameras, drivers were not told the true purpose of the study. The drivers were told they were to evaluate a vehicle’s entertainment and information system, then after adjusting the radio and reading from a navigation screen, they were instructed to back the vehicle out of its parking spot and drive to their own vehicle. As they backed out, a foam cutout of a child-size test dummy was placed in the backing path of the vehicle.

Drivers with the rearview camera had the fewest collisions with the stationary object, but it did not prevent all collisions, even when properly used. The study found that weather and lighting conditions, such as shade, could likely affect the usefulness of cameras.

Nevertheless, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has indicated that rearview cameras are the only technology available that meets a congressional mandate to expand the required field of view behind a vehicle, and will be adding the cameras to the list of recommended features in its vehicle safety ratings.