Tests Show Rear-View Cameras Improve Visibility In Vehicle "Blind Zone"

rear view camera

Rear-view camera systems improved rear visibility in “blind-zone” coverage an average of 46 percent in AAA’s tests conducted with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center (ARC). These systems are intended to improve driver awareness of the area immediately behind the vehicle in order to reduce the instance of back-over fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires a rear-view image in all passenger vehicles beginning in 2016, with full compliance by May 2018.

There are about 210 back-over deaths annually, according to the federal agency, with about a third of the deaths being children.  The agency also cites ease of parking for drivers using rear-view cameras. Many luxury model vehicles are equipped with rear-view cameras but now this safety system will be phased into the entire passenger fleet.

Key study points:

  • AAA evaluated 17 vehicles across 11 manufacturers with factory-installed and aftermarket rear-view camera systems on a variety of vehicle body styles.
  • The increased visibility ranged from blind-zone coverage of 36 percent in smaller sedans to blind-zone coverage of 75 percent in hatchbacks. Large trucks and sport utility vehicles scored in the mid-range of vehicles evaluated.

“Rear-view cameras are a great supplement for drivers,” says John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering. “Cameras don’t replace the need to check around your vehicle for obstacles before getting in to back up, but they do dramatically improve rear visibility.”

According to the Auto Club’s Automotive Engineering Manager Megan McKernan, “these systems are especially helpful for viewing the first 10 feet behind the vehicle, which are the most hazardous back-over risk of young children, and often occur with a family member behind the wheel – making these type of fatalities all the more tragic.

“With new models arriving at dealerships now, these systems are worth considering because they offer a clear view behind the vehicle where small children are most difficult to see,” she added.

AAA’s research with the Auto Club’s ARC found that:

  • A rear-view camera system increased visibility of the rear blind-zone area by an average of 46 percent for the vehicles tested. This ranged from a 36 percent improvement in smaller sedans to a 75 percent improvement in hatchbacks.
  • Although these systems dramatically improve rear-view visibility, they do not show 100 percent of the space behind the vehicle. AAA recommends drivers always walk behind their vehicle to visually confirm that there are no obstacles, and use the rear-view camera to confirm that nothing has entered the area immediately behind the vehicle since the driver’s walk-through inspection.
  • Rain, snow or slush can cloud the rear-view camera lens, delivering blurry imagery. Motorists will need to resort to manual methods of confirming that the rear blind zone is clear during inclement weather. Wiping the camera during the pre-drive inspection is a good habit that ensures the camera is ready to capture a clear image.

All of the systems tested met – and many exceeded – the minimum specifications for image quality per the NHTSA guideline.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also has provided an assessment of back-up cameras, along with six other advanced technologies, in the August 2014 report Evaluating Technologies Relevant to the Enhancement of Driver Safety. Conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, the study details a data-driven system for rating the effectiveness of new in-vehicle technologies intended to improve driver safety.  Motorists can review the AAA Foundation’s rating for new in-vehicle technologies, along with extensive informational material, at https://www.aaafoundation.org/ratings-vehicle-safety-technology.

AAA conducts proprietary research to better understand implications of automotive technology, design and functionality for consumers. Additional information regarding AAA’s research on rear-view camera systems is available on the AAA Newsroom.