Posted by: safedriver | January 24, 2012

How helpful are reverse cameras?

Modern technology has helped our society move forward in many different ways. This technology helps us enjoy life differently than we did 5, 10 or even 20 years ago. We have things now that help life to become more enjoyable, such as cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and webcams. As a driver, do we also have things like that to help us enjoy driving and drive safely?

I was recently speaking with a student I was teaching at Young Drivers of Canada and he asked me if a reverse camera was a good idea. It can be, but for limited use. For those who aren’t aware, there are vehicles that have a camera near the rear license plate that shows the view from the rear of the vehicle whenever you’re backing up. There are other products you can purchase that you can add a rear camera to your license plate cover; if you want them.

For some drivers, they rely on the rear camera for all of their backing skills. This isn’t really a good idea. The rear view camera can only show you the rear of the vehicle. The problem is that danger from behind doesn’t always originate from the rear; it can also come from the sides. By the time you spot the pedestrian behind you, it could be too late. The best thing to do while reversing is to shift in your seat so you’re sitting slightly on your hip and then look over your shoulder out the rear window. This will allow you to use your peripheral or fringe vision to spot any pedestrian coming from the side of your vehicle and is about to walk behind your vehicle.

For the driver who prefers to use their rear view mirror to reverse, I have two words for you; stop it. Using the rear view mirror to reverse does pretty much the same as a rear view camera, but with even less of a view. If your body won’t allow you to shift and look over your shoulder, you are allowed to take off your seatbelt while backing; in most jurisdictions. By doing so, you’ll have better mobility to see straight out the rear window. Your fringe vision will spot any pedestrian, including kids, who may be heading for the rear of your vehicle.

Okay, so when should we use the reverse camera? As you look over your shoulder to back up toward another vehicle in a parking lot or toward a concrete block in a parking lot, those objects tend to disappear into what’s referred to as a blind area. The reverse camera will help you see how close the rear bumper of your vehicle is getting to those objects. Keep in mind that the view is somewhat distorted through the reverse camera. There are other ways to help improve your backing skills other than using a reverse camera. However, knowing when to use that camera will help your backing skills become safer.

Using the reverse camera when you shouldn’t could cause an incident with another driver or a pedestrian. It can also cause us to rely too much on technology instead of our own abilities. And sometimes, our own ability can work a little more effectively than modern technology. Keep in mind that you may also get so used to this modern technology that if it doesn’t work for any reason, you may forget what to do differently. Modern technology is great, but knowing when to use it to make our driving safer is more effective.



  1. In my opinion. reverse cameras can be great on oversized vehicles but for most passenger vehicles, they should be absent. We tend to become too dependent on technology when it comes to driving and it’s come to the point now that it’s creating and encouraging bad habits. Either you take away all control from a driver and have the car drive itself or not at all. This half-way point is dangerous. Here is my take on this:

  2. Back-up cameras can be a great tool, giving drivers a clear view of what is immediately behind their vehicles — even SUVs and coupes. However, they are NOT to be relied upon. By looking out the rear window a driver gets a wider view, and can spot vehicles and pedestrians approaching from the sides, something that would not be seen — until it is too late — in the video screen.

    • Thanks for the comment David.

  3. I love my back up camera…but understand it’s strengths and weaknesses, too. Mine shows up in my rearview mirror when the car is in reverse (Honda Pilot). It’s extremely helpful on dark nights in the rain. With it, the blackness of the night turns into shades of gray and I can see mailboxes, bushes and most importantly, the road.

    My camera is convex, too, so it gets an unobstructed view that I can’t get if I just used my eyes looking out the back (there are blind spots with passenger heads and the frame of the vehicle).

    That said, I usually use my mirror in the beginning and then aim with my eyes out the back. I prefer the real picture rather than the distorted one through a camera. I wrote a post about back up cameras here: There are also some photos of how objects can be hidden from the camera’s view.

  4. You can’t expect a complete solution from automated things. Human intelligence is one thing which overcomes all these troubles. We make our self in a vulnerable situation by mostly depending on the technology.

    Use common sense along with technology.

  5. i copy the same as above mate said.. Technology is discovered by Humans with the involvement of common sense. back-up camera helps me upto 50% and rest should be by us..!

    • Nicely said!

  6. In vehicle witness cameras are accepted by many insurance companies whom now accept that this data is invaluable and will use this data to prove without doubt what happened in the event of an accident or incident.
    car camera

  7. I love our reverse camera. It has a wide angle lens with more scope than either mirrors or my turning my head.

  8. I usually agree with, and Lear much from Scott. Cameras aside, people need to learn to use mirrors. I was dependent on looking out rear windows, but some cars have horrible blind spots, as do trucks with trailers, or SUVs with cargo. My husband had worked diligently to break my rear window dependency by teaching me how to align all mirrors correctly.

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