Study Shows Rearview Cameras More Effective Than Parking Sensors

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Can the use of rearview cameras cause you to be less likely to get in a fender bender than simply using your mirrors? The answer might surprise you.

A new study conducted on 111 volunteers to test their “backing up” skills found that when backing up, the drivers tended to perform better when using rearview cameras alone. They performed slightly more poorly when using rearview cameras as well as parking sensors.

The counter-intuitive results suggest that “more” driver safety does not always translate to better driver safety. How did this happen, and does the study have bearing in the real world?

Under the Hood of a Driving Study

For the purposes of the study, 111 volunteers were recruited and asked to attempt their normal driving behaviors, according to AutoBlog.com. The researchers placed cutouts depicting children near the car that would either appear or strategically move in a way that would surprise the driver.

Throughout the study, the researchers made sure that the car’s level of equipment fell into one of four categories:

  • No parking view technology (except for the mirrors)
  • Only a parking sensor
  • Only a parking camera
  • Both a parking sensor and a parking camera

Intuitively, the results should have shown that the drivers equipped with both parking sensors and parking cameras performed the best. After all, they were the ones with the most technology to assist them.

The results, which you can see on the graph below, showed that the drivers using the parking camera alone performed the best.

rearview camera mirror safety study comparison

What’s going on here? Surely in an era of advanced safety technology, sensors, and computer-quick timing, the more safety, the better.

Why Parking Cameras Worked

Any study should be subject to scrutiny. For example, were all of the subjects placed in the same type of vehicle? If so, that particular vehicle might be biased toward performing well with parking cameras. Perhaps other models would prevent accidents better with both sensor and camera usage.

The study used 21 different vehicles, as reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They found that the larger the vehicle, the worse the visibility and, hence, the greater risk for backing into an object. The parking sensors helped to reduce blind spot areas for the driver but not as extensively as did the parking cameras.

As a result, the IIHS concluded that parking cameras are the more effective tool for preventing accidents in parking lots and blind spots. Although parking sensors can help aid those who are simply using mirrors, they appear to potentially hinder a driver’s concentration when focusing simply on the camera. It is worth noting, however, that the camera and parking sensor still outperformed the use of mirrors alone.

This is part of an ongoing effort to determine the way drivers can most safely and effectively use the safety tools at their disposal. As cars become equipped with newer technology that promises to reduce accidents and mishaps, it will be up to studies like this to discern where the effectiveness truly lies.

UPDATE: The federal government has just announced a requirement that all new vehicles must come with rearview cameras by 2018.

About the author:

Gail Watkins is a self-proclaimed car fanatic who never misses the opportunity to attend a show or Formula 1 race. When not writing for Unity Automotive, Gail spends her spare time driving the English countryside in hunt of a charming pub or planning a dream vacation driving US Historic Route 66 in a Dodge Viper with her husband.

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