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Backup Cameras, Car Accidents and New Car Designs

Due to trends in styling and the need to make vehicles more aerodynamic to meet fuel standards, many new vehicles are sacrificing rear visibility. The blind spots behind vehicles are an important issue as roughly 50 children are killed per week in backup accidents. Taller, longer vehicles tend to have larger blind spots, but even small cars are now suffering from blind spots that can extend 40 feet behind the vehicle. Rear-view cameras nearly eliminate blind spots, but they are often an expensive option even in the few models that do offer them.

The Department of Transportation has proposed a federal requirement, mandating the inclusion of backup cameras in all light cars and trucks. The requirement was supposed to apply to all 2014 models. That requirement has been delayed several times now as manufacturers balk at the costs associated with making the cameras standard equipment. While many vehicles come with screens for use with onboard navigation systems, the problem comes from the time it takes for the car to realize it is in reverse, turn the camera on, and put the rearview image on the screen. As many people start their cars and immediately backup out of their driveways, only a few systems are capable of giving drivers the information they need quickly enough to be of use.

Few accidents are more common or more tragic that backup accidents. The victims are often the young children of the driver. According to the Department of Transportation, backup cameras could reduce the number of injuries per year by approximately 18,000 and reduce the number of fatalities caused by backup accidents by 300.

Car manufacturers may be ignoring rear visibility, but consumers should not. If your car is long, tall, has a high back end or limited window space out the back, you should be aware that there is likely a large area behind you that you cannot see. If you do not have a backup camera system installed, you need to take the time to make sure no one is behind you before putting your car into reverse. Children and elderly family members are by far the most likely victims of a backup accident. The time you take to make sure the area behind you is clear is well worth it.

Source: USA Today, "Video: Why backup cameras needed more than ever," by Fred Meier, 21 May 2012

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