Blind spots. Every car on the market has them. Blind spots are those zones around your vehicle where you cannot see what’s near or behind you, even when utilizing the rearview and side view mirrors correctly. Depending on your height, blind spots usually consist of an area of about 15 to 25 feet, and they are the cause for a variety of accidents, the most common being back-overs. In fact, a study from the Institute for Highway Safety (HIS) revealed that around 18,000 individuals are injured due to accidents involving back-overs due blind spots, including close to 300 fatalities. The victims are usually children or the elderly.
Back-overs involving a small child, in particular, occur all too frequently. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that children younger than age five account for 31 percent of back-over fatalities every year. In the United States, every week there are more than 50 back-over accidents involving children, and the majority of the children injured or killed are only around one year old. Parents or relatives are often the ones driving the vehicle, getting in quickly without knowing their child may have followed them outside. And, once a small child is in a blind spot, it’s usually impossible to see him or her in the rearview or side view mirrors.
To help eliminate these back-over accidents from occurring, the NHSTA has enforced regulations making back-up cameras standard on all new vehicles by May 2018.
The History of Back-Up Cameras
Believe it or not, the first back-up camera was introduced all the way back in 1956 on the Buick Centurion concept car, which was presented at that year’s General Motors Motorama. That vehicle included a rear-mounted television camera that sent images to a monitor in the dashboard as a means of replacing the rearview mirror. Of course, this particular vehicle was never for sale to the general public, so the idea, while definitely ahead of its time, fizzled quickly.
Fast-forward to Japan in 1991, when Toyota introduced a back-up camera on their Soarer Sports Coupe. This system included a color screen and a rear spoiler-mounted camera. While this vehicle was not sold in the United States, this version of the vehicle back-up camera became the inspiration for the modern versions sold on many vehicles today.
In the early 2000s, Nissan began the global boom of vehicle back-up cameras with the introduction of their RearView Monitor on the 2002 Infiniti Q45 luxury model, revealed at the 2000 New York International Auto Show. This system included a license plate-mounted camera in the trunk that transmitted a mirror image using colored onscreen guidelines to an in-dashboard, seven-inch LCD screen.
Vehicle back-up cameras continue to evolve and advance technologically to this day, with clearer screens and back-up alarms that sound when your car gets too close to an object. Nissan was also innovative in designing one of the first 360-degree cameras, their “Around View Monitor.” This system offers a bird’s eye view of the vehicle to allow drivers to see any type of object that could be in their path before driving forward or backing up.
3 Ways Back-Up Cameras Improve Vehicle Safety
The purpose of a car back-up camera is to aid in backing up and eliminate that dangerous rear blind spot. In 2014, the NHTSA announced it would require all vehicles sold in the United States to include back-up cameras by the year 2018. This was a long-delayed regulation that was inspired by the death of two year old Cameron Gulbransen, who was run over in his driveway by his father’s SUV back in 2002.
Back-up cameras are proving to be the most promising form of vehicle safety technology for reducing these types of tragic accidents. Here are a few of the ways they can help keep you, your loved ones and others as safe as possible:
- Allow you to see objects in blind spots. As stated previously, the biggest advantage back-up cameras offer is the fact that you can truly see children or objects in your blind spots before you shift into reverse and drive away. Children are impulsive and don’t recognize boundaries or the danger they could be putting themselves into when dashing out behind a moving vehicle. Or, perhaps someone left a bike or toy out behind your car the night before. A vehicle back-up camera will alert you to its presence before you back over it and damage your car – and the items in its path.
- Help you judge when to stop backing up. Another way back-up cameras aid it vehicle safety is to that they allow you to know when to stop moving before it becomes too late. Sometimes, it can be difficult to judge how close that garage door or other vehicle bumper really is just by checking your rearview or side view mirrors. A vehicle back-up camera shows you the true distance, so you know when to stop before doing any harm.
- Guidelines allow you to maneuver safely. Do you dread parking on crowded streets because you’re terrible at parallel parking? You’re not alone! Thanks to back-up cameras, however, you can use the guidelines on the monitor to safely maneuver your way into those tight parking spots. Those guidelines also come in handy when backing up down a tight driveway or out of a close parking spot at the grocery store.
The Limitations of Vehicle Back-Up Cameras<
While new vehicle safety technology like back-up cameras and automatic braking can reduce the amount of back-up crashes by 78 percent, it’s important to note that you should never rely on this technology 100 percent of the time.
Before getting in your vehicle, you should always do a quick walk around, sometimes called a “360 walk-around” or “the circle of safety.” This method helps you identify the potential hazards around your vehicle before it’s put in motion. While the back-up camera, alarms or beepers are useful, you should never depend on them alone; use them in addition to your mirrors when backing up. Remember, the camera should really be a verification of your surroundings and assist in judging proximity when you’re backing up.
Even when properly used, back-up cameras cannot prevent all collisions. You also need to take your environment in mind, including weather and lighting conditions, as sometimes it might not be possible for the back-up camera to detect objects or people in your way.
Additionally, you might think that the presence of a vehicle back-up camera will lower your insurance rates. However, this is not the case at the moment. Although they can save precious lives, it could be years before we really see the impact. It won’t be until the year 2054 that all vehicles on the road will have back-up cameras.
Additional Vehicle Safety Technology: Back-Up Motion Alarms and Beepers
The NHTSA reports that there are approximately 500,000 backing accidents in the United States every year. While not all of these accidents result in a tragedy – indeed, many simply cause a scratched bumper and some annoyance on your part – finding ways to avoid these accidents has become a worthy challenge.
More people are behind the wheels of larger vehicles like trucks, minivans and SUVs than ever before, and 70 percent of all backing accidents occur in these types of vehicles. In addition to making back-up cameras standard on all new vehicles starting in 2018, motion vehicle alarms, or back-up beepers, can also be useful in preventing backing accidents.
Motion vehicle alarms or back-up beepers emit a sound to alert people near your vehicle that you are beginning to back up. These types of systems are traditionally used on larger, construction vehicles to warn people of machinery at work. There aren’t too many traditional cars on the road with back-up beepers, although Congress did recently pass a bill calling for the installation of motion alarms on electric or hybrid electric vehicles, which run entirely on electricity and can be exceptionally quiet, putting pedestrians at higher risk.
Vehicle Safety Technology – A Few General Tips
Making vehicle back-up cameras standard on all vehicles will undoubtedly save lives, especially the lives of children. However, it cannot be stressed enough that you shouldn’t rely on vehicle safety technology alone to reduce your risk of a back-up accident.
First, you always want to ensure you are minimizing your car’s blind spots as much as possible. This means always correctly adjusting your seat position and mirrors before you drive off to your destination, even if it’s only a short distance away. Then, when you’re using the back-up camera, make sure you understand the information it’s revealing on the display monitor. In other words, you should know the proximity and distance the camera displays in relation to the object you’re backing towards. There’s nothing worse than thinking you have several more feet to go, and then hearing that crunch as your bumper connects to an object behind you.
Also, remember the camera’s and sensor’s limitations. Poor lighting conditions may not allow all objects to be sensed by the camera. Plus, dirt, grime, road salt and water can all block the back-up camera lens’s view, too. Make sure you are well aware of your surroundings so you understand the information your camera reveals, allowing you to make the best possible decision and operate your vehicle as safely as possible.
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