Nissan Versa Note Rearview Camera
(U.S. News and World Report)

A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that rearview cameras may be better than rear parking sensors at preventing collisions when a vehicle is reversing. According to the study, in some cases, rearview cameras alone prevented more collisions than rearview cameras paired with parking sensors.

The purpose of the study was withheld from 111 volunteers who were asked to get behind the wheel of a 2013 Chevrolet Equinox to evaluate its infotainment systems. Volunteers were then instructed to back out of a parking space as a foam cutout of a child-size crash test dummy was placed either stationary behind the vehicle or was moved into its rear path from the driver's side as the SUV was backing up. In cases where the cutout was placed stationary behind the vehicle, there were four times as many collisions as there were when the cutout was moved into the vehicle's rear path.

Drivers using no backup technology had the most collisions, with 100 percent of them hitting the stationary child cutout. Those using only a rearview camera avoided the most collisions, with 56 percent of them hitting the stationary cutout. Using only parking sensors, more than 90 percent of drivers collided with the cutout. In most cases, having both a backup camera and parking sensors didn't significantly reduce accidents, with 75 percent of those drivers hitting the stationary cutout.

In its report, the IIHS suggests that sensors may give drivers a false sense of security, resulting in them paying less attention to the camera display. "The sensors might be more useful if they had a larger range and could provide an earlier warning," David Kidd, an IIHS research scientist and the lead author of the study, said in the study's report.

The IIHS says about 18,000 people are injured and 292 people die from backup accidents each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 183 people are killed and 6,700 to 7,419 are injured each year in back over accidents. According to research by NHTSA, if all vehicles were equipped with rearview cameras, there would be 95 fewer deaths from backup accidents annually and backup injuries would be cut down by 7,072. In 2010, NHTSA proposed a rule that would require rearview cameras to come standard in all new vehicles sold in the U.S. The deadline to finalize the rule isn't until 2015 and may not take effect until the 2017 model year.

Despite rearview cameras’ relative safety over some other features, the IIHS warns that a rearview camera's effectiveness still relies on other factors, including lighting and weather conditions, which can limit their capabilities. 

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