How to Use a Backup Camera Correctly

CARS.COM — Backup cameras are critical to reducing the more than 200 deaths and 15,000 injuries caused by backover crashes each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Backup cameras, however, differ from car to car, making it important for drivers to be familiar with their system's setup.

Related: Feds Say New Cars Must Have Backup Cameras By Model-Year 2019

"AAA found that backup cameras on average improved rear visibility 46 percent, however, having a camera doesn't replace good driving skills or the need to check around your vehicle for obstacles before getting in," said John Nielsen, AAA's managing director of automotive engineering.

This year, 10 percent of vehicles sold on or after May 1 must have standard backup cameras to meet NHTSA's requirement, and all 2019 model-year vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less must be equipped with the safety feature by 2018.

Becoming comfortable with how a backup camera works is important to getting the most out of it, Nielsen said. He suggests using the backup camera while parallel parking your car to learn the camera's perspective and relationship to real distances while you drive in Reverse.

Drivers should remember that a backup camera's image will look a lot different depending on the vehicle's body style, he said. The view from a backup camera on a pickup truck will differ greatly from one on a sedan.

Even with a backup camera, there is a blind spot below the rear bumper of any vehicle, making it difficult to see low-to-the-ground items such as balls, broken glass, metal objects or even bicycles lying on the ground, said Alex Epstein of the National Safety Council.

And during the winter, cameras should be cleaned, especially when there is salt or snow on the lens, Epstein said.

AAA and the National Safety Council recommend the following steps when using a backup camera:

  • Walk around the car to check for obstacles or objects, especially near the rear, to ensure space.
  • Once seated, the driver should look over both shoulders.
  • Check side mirrors.
  • After shifting into Reverse and activating the backup camera, continue checking the camera image, side mirrors and surroundings while backing up.
  • Take your time.

"The best safety feature is the driver," Epstein said.

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