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The Rear-View Camera Becomes Standard Equipment

Canada’s Transport Minister Marc Garneau recently announced that starting in May 2018, all new cars and small trucks sold in Canada will have to be equipped with rear-view camera systems.  The regulations that will bring this requirement into effect have now been formally posted in the Canada Gazette for a 75-day comment period.

The rear-view camera regulations will align Canadian standards with those announced by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on March 31, 2014, which are online.

Rear-view camera systems, also known as backup cameras or reversing cameras, have two basic components: a video camera centrally attached on or near the rear ‘bumper’ automatically activated when the vehicle is reversing, and a screen on the dashboard showing what the camera is filming—namely the area directly behind the vehicle.  The regulations specify the number of performance requirements, but these are all related, one way or another, to the most important, which is the area behind the vehicle that must be visible to the driver when the vehicle is placed into reverse — called the ‘minimum field of view’ requirement.

For now, for these first generation systems, the minimum field of view requirement is 20 feet longitudinally from the vehicle’s rear bumper and 5 feet to either side of the vehicle’s centerline.  In other words, the driver of a vehicle equipped with such a mandated rear-view camera system will be able to see on the display screen, the road immediately behind the vehicle’s bumper to a distance of 20 feet over a range extending five feet to either side of the vehicle’s centerline. Systems currently in use usually overlay on the display screen some sort of grid system delineating the field of view.

The main purpose of rear-view camera systems is to reduce or, hopefully, eliminate backover crashes involving those who have proven to be, statistically, most at risk from drivers failing to see them directly in the path of their reversing vehicle, namely small children, persons with disabilities, the elderly, other pedestrians and family pets such as dogs.

Used properly, rear-view camera systems should provide drivers with ‘eyes on the back of their heads’ technology and, as a bonus, elimination of the blind spot that occurs between the front bumper and the viewable road ahead.  They should also reduce or eliminate parallel parking bumps and scrapes, and parking lot mishaps.

The key, of course, is learning how to use the camera system properly.  The basic rule for driving with a rear-view camera is that it does not eliminate the need to check your side and rear-view mirrors or the need to shoulder check in certain tight spots.  Perhaps surprisingly a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study shows that drivers with rear-view systems continue to “keep hitting things” and may now even see themselves doing so.

As Janette Fennell, president and founder of car safety non-profit, has been quoted as saying, “Even with backup cameras, drivers still don’t look around their vehicles enough when in reverse and sometimes get distracted by any number of things as their cars roll backward.”

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