Rearview cameras sound like a good bet if you're concerned about safety, but a new study just published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that their benefits may be limited. Parking sensors, says the study, provided drivers with no more safety protection than using just your mirrors, and combining those and backup cams together was actually more dangerous in some cases.

The study examined 111 volunteers who were asked to perform normal driving behaviors. When they left a parking spot, the cutout of a child either jumped up or moved into place to surprised them. The vehicles were equipped with parking sensors, backup cameras, both or neither.

IIHS Graph FigureThe study results are surprising. For the stationary object: 100 percent of those tested using just their mirrors hit it, about 95 percent with parking sensors, 56 percent with the camera and 75 percent with the both. For the moving obstacle: 13 percent collided with it using no technology, about 40 percent with the sensors, 13 percent with the camera and less than 10 percent for the combo. The results can be seen in graph to the right.

Parking sensors were found to be almost useless in these cases. The major problem was that they had a range of only around eight feet, which doesn't give enough time to react. They were made even less helpful in combination with backup cams because drivers were less likely to look at the video display when they had a parking system.

"Right now cameras appear to be the most promising technology for addressing this particularly tragic type of crash, which frequently claims the lives of young children in the driveways of their own homes," says David Zuby, the group's executive vice president and chief research officer, in a statement on the official site of the IIHS. It also provides an abstracted view of the study and graph showing each system's effectiveness. Take a look for the full results.


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  • 48 Comments
      PM
      • 9 Months Ago
      I don't understand how camera + sensors is worse than the camera alone. The testers must be terrible. And the new systems that do the automatic braking before a collision in slow maneuvers use the sensors for proximity detection, and rear cross traffic alert. I like having both camera and sensors whenever possible.
        John Hughan
        • 9 Months Ago
        @PM
        Because people with sensors apparently don't bother to look at the camera and just count on hearing beeps. Stupid, yes, but apparently that's what happened with the test subjects who were used. My car has both and I'm the exact opposite; I like seeing exactly what the obstacle is behind me and seeing visually how far away it is, so I don't use my sensors really at all.
      bh
      • 9 Months Ago
      Parking sensors just aren't designed for emergencies -- no surprise there. They're for wedging into a tight space in ordinary parking.
        waetherman
        • 9 Months Ago
        @bh
        Still it's interesting to note that parking sensors actually made accidents with pedestrians (kids) MORE likely.
      cadetgray
      • 9 Months Ago
      When will our government realize that installing these cameras will only interfere with the natural selection process. How else can we cull the herd of stupid, distracted, cell phone operating pedestrians? No wonder American's are loosing our competitive edge...we're doing nothing to improve the gene pool. Sure they are concerned about pollution and limited fossil fuel supplies, but what about overpopulation? (wink)
      Adrian Elliot
      • 9 Months Ago
      The primary purpose of parking sensors is to make it easier to park without causing minor bumper damage, not to be alerted of objects (such as children) that suddenly dash behind the vehicle.
      Cruising
      • 9 Months Ago
      That photo gets me every time.
      imtoomuch1
      • 9 Months Ago
      The best safety device ever? A good driver. Today everybody is in a car that's way too safe, does too much of the driving for them, and not only allows distractions, but promotes it with navigation, in-vehicle media centers, etc.
      bullitt2605
      • 9 Months Ago
      I am pushing for a forward facing camera with the viewing screen mounted in back facing forward so when people turn around to yell at their kids they can still see where they are going.
      MazdaSpeeder
      • 9 Months Ago
      "Right now cameras appear to be the most promising technology for addressing this particularly tragic type of crash, which frequently claims the lives of young children in the driveways of their own homes," Let's not get dramatic here. "very rarely claim the lives of young children" would be much more accurate. Estimates hover around 100 children killed per year. Now, don't get me wrong, that's a terrible tragedy, but how many other things kill 100 children a year that we're going to mandate expensive technology that only has a small effect on an already very small number for fatalities? I know people will say, "but, even if one life is saved..." However, this argument could be used for all kinds of crazy laws...like making it illegal to drive a car. Think of how many lives that would save! The real answer here is more care and caution when operating motor vehicles around children. It's not to force more useless "safety technology" that actually makes very little difference. Sources on fatality numbers: http://www.kidsandcars.org/back-overs.html http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/11/politics/backover-accidents/
        Bernard
        • 9 Months Ago
        @MazdaSpeeder
        It's 2014, this isn't "expensive technology" anymore. The tech is so cheap you can find stacks of phones with this stuff at your local "Goodwill." People throw things stuff this away like an old dish rag these days.
        waetherman
        • 9 Months Ago
        @MazdaSpeeder
        Fact check: while there might be 100 fatalities per year, the number of kids hit in backups is around 2500 per year. And the cost of a backup camera is hardly "expensive technology" - a retail system with camera and display costs less than $100, and for cars that already have a display (which is most these days, I'd say) the cost for a camera alone is maybe $15. That's retail prices - if this were done at the factory, I imagine the total cost would be less than $50 per car. In a low end vehicle, that's 0.3% of the vehicle cost. And with a 50%+ reduction in preventable injuries and deaths, I'd hardly say that it's "useless." I'm not saying that use should necessarily be required, but we should be clear about the costs and the benefits before we make that decision.
      Master Austin
      • 9 Months Ago
      Brought to you by irresponsible parents that let kids play in driveways.
      knightrider_6
      • 9 Months Ago
      I think the sample size needs to be bigger. Did all 111 people drive all four kind of vehicles (444 data points) ?
        John Hughan
        • 9 Months Ago
        @knightrider_6
        I doubt it, mostly because once you run the test once, the drivers would know what to watch out for on subsequent attempts with the other vehicles, which would skew the results. You can easily get a test subject into a car and get them to back out of a driveway without telling them that you're going to be testing their reaction time in a situation like this, but you won't be able to do that twice.
      Chadzter
      • 9 Months Ago
      How in the world does 100 percent of the drivers hit a stationary object? That firgure alone means this study is bad. How about people learn to drive first before we make more laws to solve a problem that shouldn't exist.
        JSH
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Chadzter
        How could someone possibly see an object shorter than the trunk of the car in the rearview mirror? Of course 100% of drivers hit it.
        Card13
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Chadzter
        The object was a small (shorter than the trunk height) cutout placed just behind the vehicle. I'm assuming all the drivers approached the vehicle from the front. No one would walk around the vehicle for no reason, so they could only check their surroundings after being seated in the driver's seat. If something is shorter than the trunk and close to the car, it is physically impossible to see it from looking out the back of the car. If it is directly behind and close to the car, it cannot be seen in the side mirrors. Please enlighten us on how any of these drivers could have known it was there
        Eta Carinae
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Chadzter
        I think everyone has hit a curb in one or another = 100% you see how data can be skewed to make information look good = sad.....
      Rr778
      • 9 Months Ago
      Ever seen an new or inexperienced driver use a backup camera? They instinctively stare at it and never look back. Only a politician or a salesman would force us to buy these.
        JSH
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Rr778
        I was taught in Driver's Ed not to turn and look behind while reversing. I was taught instead to scan between the 3 rear view mirrors.
          JSH
          • 9 Months Ago
          @JSH
          You also can't see in all directions when you turn around to look over your shoulder. If I turn to look over my right shoulder I can see out the back window and the right side windows. (If they exist and don't have huge blind spots caused by C pillars). I am totally blind to anything that is on the left side of the car. I use different techniques depending on what type of car I am driving. Something like a truck provides excellent views when turning and looking over my shoulder. Minivans and hatchbacks have huge blinds spots that make turning around almost useless.
          StephenT
          • 9 Months Ago
          @JSH
          I can't back up at all totally relying on the mirrors. Somehow my brain just can't comprehend distance and which way to turn from only looking at a reflection.
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