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IIHS Study Favors Rear-View Cameras Over Parking Sensors

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Child-size dummy used in IISH rear-crash test

Child-size dummy used in IIHS rear-crash test

A new study finds that rear-view cameras are more effective in preventing pedestrian accidents as drivers back up than a combination of the cameras and parking sensors, reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which conducted the study.

This could be because the sensors may give a driver a false sense of security; knowing a vehicle has sensors, he or she may pay less attention to the back-up camera, IIHS writes. As Chris Bruce writes for AutoBlog, “Parking sensors, says the study, provided drivers with no more safety protection than using just your mirrors, and combining those [the sensors] and backup cams together was actually more dangerous in some cases.”

In the study, each of 111 volunteers drove a 2013 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ, which IIHS says was chosen because it’s a high-volume midsize SUV with neither the smallest nor the largest “blind zone” behind it. The volunteers were told that they were to evaluate the vehicle’s entertainment and information systems. They were first asked to do some parking maneuvers and to tune in the radio and read from a navigation display, and then to back out of a spot and drive to where they had left their own vehicles, IIHS writes.

Those conducting the study had placed foam cutouts of child-size crash dummies behind the vehicles, sometimes stationary and sometimes moving into the SUV’s path from the driver’s side. The result was that four times as many drivers hit the stationary dummy as hit the moving one, the study reports.

Those drivers whose test vehicles had a rearview camera and no parking sensors had the lowest number of collisions with the stationary dummy: 56% of them hit it. By comparison, all of the test drivers whose vehicles had no sensors and no back-up camera hit the stationary dummy; and among those drivers whose vehicles had only parking sensors, only 1 out of 16 avoided a crash, IIHS writes. Three-quarters of those drivers whose test vehicles had both back-up cameras and sensors hit the stationary dummy. The study reports:

“Slightly fewer drivers who had both cameras and sensors looked at the camera display at least once than drivers who had only cameras, and they spent a smaller proportion of time looking at the camera display while backing, but these differences weren’t statistically significant.”

David Kidd, an IIHS research scientist and the lead author of the study, said sensors might be more helpful in preventing back-up accidents if they had a larger range and could provide an earlier warning. Even those volunteer drivers who braked in response to the sensor wound up colliding with the stationary dummy in most cases, he said.

The study found that another problem was a lack of adequate lighting behind vehicles and poor visibility on rear-view-camera displays in certain weather conditions. When the stationary dummy was in the shade, most of the drivers hit it even when they had looked at the rear-view camera display, IIHS writes.

IIHS writes that it has been conducting the research as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers whether to require rear-view cameras on passenger vehicles in accordance with a request by Congress in 2008. As this blog reported, NHTSA announced last September that it would add the cameras to a list of recommended features in its vehicle safety ratings.

The agency has not finalized the regulation but has said that rear-view cameras are the only technology that would satisfy Congress’s mandate that NHTSA expand the field of view behind passenger vehicles, IIHS writes. IIHS says it would like to see rear-view cameras and parking sensors combined with automatic rear braking technology, noting that autobrake for front crash prevention has been shown to be very effective.

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