IIHS Study Finds Rearview Cameras Can Reduce Backing Crashes

November 23, 2016

Rearview cameras are expected to prevent nearly one-in-six police-reported backing crashes, an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study has found.

The IIHS is an Arlington, Virginia, headquartered independent, nonprofit research and communications organization dedicated to reducing highway crash deaths, injuries, and property damage losses, according to its website.

The study compared rates of backing crashes for vehicles equipped with optional rearview cameras from four manufacturers with crash rates for the same models without the feature. On average, the cameras cut these crashes by 16 percent.

More vehicles are already being sold with rearview cameras, and all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds will be required to have them by May 2018. The requirement is aimed at reducing backover crashes involving children and other pedestrians.

Earlier IIHS research with volunteer drivers showed that rearview cameras dramatically reduce the size of blind zones behind vehicles in which a young child wouldn’t be visible. The research showed that cameras are more effective at helping drivers avoid unexpected objects than parking sensors.

For the latest study, Jessica Cicchino, the Institute’s vice president for research, looked at police-reported crashes in 22 states for Buick Lucernes, Honda Pilots and various Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Subaru models. All except the Lucernes and some Mercedes-Benz models had optional rear cameras.

Using police reports allowed Cicchino to identify crashes in which study vehicles were traveling in reverse. She used vehicle identification numbers to determine which crash-involved backing vehicles were equipped with the cameras or sensors.

Information from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) was used to control for other factors that might also have affected crash rates, including the vehicle’s garaging location and driver characteristics.

The rearview cameras reduced the rate of backing crashes per insured vehicle year by 16 percent for all vehicles combined. When looked at by manufacturer, all the camera systems except for the ones on the Mercedes-Benz vehicles reduced crashes. The reductions ranged from 14 percent to 23 percent. The cameras had the biggest benefit for drivers 70 and older. Their backing crash rate fell 40 percent with cameras, compared with 15 percent for drivers younger than 70.

“Older drivers often have difficulty turning their heads, making rear cameras particularly useful,” Cicchino said in an IIHS press release. “Judging distances becomes more difficult with age, so that could make sensors useful to older drivers in a different way from the increased visibility provided by cameras.”

Rear automatic braking could provide an even greater benefit. Unlike the parking sensors studied, which issue warnings when the vehicle gets too close to a vehicle or object, it doesn’t depend on driver response to be effective. IIHS research on front crash prevention has found that systems with autobrake cut more crashes than systems that only issue warnings.

However, a limitation of the new study is that many minor backing crashes aren’t reported to police because they involve only a single vehicle and often occur in driveways or parking lots. Most of the crashes in the study involved one vehicle backing into another and might not be representative of backing crashes in general.

HLDI studies of insurance losses have shown that both rearview cameras and rear parking sensors reduce claim rates for damage to other vehicles. These effects are smaller and not as robust as the benefits identified in the latest IIHS study. That’s because the HLDI analyses include all types of crashes, not just backing collisions, which make up a small percentage of the total.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

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