Backup Cameras Aren't Perfect
Although backup camera systems have many advantages and can enhance both safety and convenience, some issues can affect their operation. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare to use and maintain your rear monitoring system effectively.
The most common problem that owners experience is poor image quality, and the most likely cause is simply a dirty lens. Since many cameras are mounted low on the back of the car, they're subject to being obscured by mud, snow, dirt or other debris. Luckily, the fix is easy: Clean the lens with a soft cloth (to prevent scratching the lens).
If you have a wireless system — most often found on aftermarket models — there could be an interference or pairing problem with the signal. Interference, although rare, could be caused by using other wireless devices while the camera is in operation. For the camera and monitor to work together in a wireless system, they need to be "paired" so they can communicate with each other. Incompatibility could particularly be an issue if you purchased the camera and monitor separately.
Another cause of poor image quality, or the lack of an image altogether, might be a defect or malfunction in the camera, monitor or other component of the system. There could be numerous causes for this problem, and a qualified technician should diagnose and repair it.
It's important to keep in mind that backup cameras aren't a guarantee of safety when you put your car in Reverse. As noted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: "Rearview video systems are not a replacement for mirrors or turning around to look; rather, they're an added safety tool for revealing hidden dangers."
Although information is still being collected by a number of government and private organizations, a NHTSA study using data from 2008 to 2011 showed that even though the number of vehicles with backup cameras more than doubled over that period, the number of injuries was reduced by less than 8 percent. On the other hand, the fatality rate from these types of accidents fell by more than 30 percent. It must be noted, however, that the NHTSA investigation is several years old, and it relied on a relatively small sample size. As newer information becomes available, we'll learn more about the efficacy of backup camera systems.
Finally, backup cameras are only effective if you use them. A study conducted at the University of Massachusetts found that just 20 percent of the drivers in its sample group looked at their rearview monitors when backing up. And the study also found that 46 percent of the group who failed to watch the monitor did look at it when an alarm sounded, indicating that the vehicle was getting close to an object. Since most modern rearview systems do have alarms, it's likely that your next vehicle will remind you to keep an eye on your monitor.