Do Backup Sensors Really Prevent Accidents?

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Do Backup Sensors Really Prevent Accidents?

Research from AAA reveals significant limitations to rear cross traffic alert systems

Do Backup Sensors Really Prevent Accidents?These days, more and more automakers are including rear cross traffic alert (RCTA) systems on vehicles in an effort to help drivers avoid accidents. While safety improvements are always good, experts such as AAA are now raising concerns that RCTA systems may be inspiring false confidence.

How RCTA Systems Are Supposed to Work

The primary purpose of RCTA systems is to help drivers back out of parking spots and driveways safely. The system uses sensors to watch out for movement on either side of the car. When movement is detected, the system issues an alert, warning the driver to stop and look for another vehicle, a bicycle, a pedestrian, or whatever else that might be trying to pass behind the vehicle.

This sounds like an excellent safety feature to have. But in reality, RCTA systems have significant limitations that drivers need to be aware of.

How RCTA? Systems Really Work

Because RCTA systems rely on line of sight sensors, they can easily be rendered useless by other obstacles around the vehicle. This often occurs when parked diagonally between large vehicles like SUVs, vans, or pickup trucks that block both the driver’s view of the road and the sensors’ line of sight.

AAA and the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center recently worked together to test RCTA systems in just this type of parking lot scenario. The results of the tests were pretty disheartening:

  • Passing motorcycles were overlooked 48 percent of the time
  • Passing bicycles were overlooked 40 percent of the time
  • Passing vehicles were overlooked 30 percent of the time
  • Passing pedestrians were overlooked 60 percent of the time

To be fair, not all RCTA systems tested claimed the ability to detect pedestrians.

Technology No Substitute for Common Sense

The best way to prevent accidentally hitting a pedestrian, bicyclist, motorcyclist, or other vehicle when leaving a parking spot is not to put yourself in the position where you have to back out at all. In a press release on the topic, AAA recommended that drivers back into diagonal parking spaces so that they can simply pull forward into traffic when leaving. However, this is not always going to be possible or practical. In such situations, it can certainly be helpful to have a rear view camera or RCTA system to assist you in backing up—so long as you remember that the technology is not perfect. You still need to keep your eyes open to hazards. After all, in the event of an accident you, not the cameras or sensors, will be at fault.

If you need advice about any kind of car accident injury case, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas at 909-982-0707.


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