NHTSA: Back-up Sensors Don't Work

Glenn Swanson
by Glenn Swanson

The Chicago Sun Times reports that The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is less then enthusiastic when it comes to in-car systems aimed at preventing motorists from backing over pedestrians. The nonprofit group Kids in Cars figures that between 2002 and 2006, reversing vehicles killed 674 children. At the behest of Congress, NHTSA looked into the issue. The agency reported that “at least 183 fatalities occur annually," with no evidence indicating an statistical increase. But they admitted that they have little hard data on “back over” incidents, as many occur on private property (e.g. car owners' driveways). As for prevention, NHTSA spokesman cited its '05 official report that concluded that systems designed to detect persons behind a vehicle are "expensive, unreliable and gives drivers a false sense of security." In any case, most new cars lack these $300 to $600 backup systems because automakers usually bundle them with expensive navigation units.

Glenn Swanson
Glenn Swanson

Glenn is a baby-boomer, born in 1954. Along with his wife, he makes his home in Connecticut. Employed in the public sector as an Information Tedchnology Specialist, Glenn has long been a car fan. Past rides have included heavy iron such as a 1967 GTO, to a V8 T-Bird. In between those high-horsepower cars, he's owned a pair of BMW 320i's. Now, with a daily commute of 40 miles, his concession to MPG dictates the ownership of a 2006 Honda Civic coupe which, while fun to drive, is a modest car for a pistonhead. As an avid reader, Glenn enjoys TTAC, along with many other auto-realated sites, and the occasional good book. As an avid electronic junkie, Glenn holds an Advanced Class amateur ("ham") radio license, and is into many things electronic. From a satellite radio and portable GPS unit in the cars, to a modest home theater system and radio-intercom in his home, if it's run by the movement of electrons, he's interested. :-)

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4 of 19 comments
  • Edgett Edgett on Aug 21, 2007

    Maybe I'm just old, but there was a period in car and truck design when glassy cabins were all the rage, accompanied by downward sloping trunks for those cars that had them. The current pillbox fashion makes it damned hard to see out of a small sedan, much less a larger vehicle. It would be interesting to look at 'back-over' stats from the late '70s and early '80s when glass was "in" and the pillbox look was rare. Surely we're not adding that much to trunk room with higher beltlines, and the visibility out the sides ain't so hot either.

  • Shaker Shaker on Aug 21, 2007

    I bought my Dad a $5 plastic Fresnel (sp?) lens for the back window of his '72 Pontiac SW; he could see (albeit with image distortion) the rear bumper as well as the car behind when he was backing into a spot. It would work with an SUV or minivan just as well -- you just have to position it so that you don't block too much of the normal rear view. It doesn't do much for the looks of the car, but it's better than the convex mirrors mounted at the rear corners of FedEx trucks... The high trunks of sedans also help the aerodynamics (I think)-- better than a flat trunk (but not as good as the achtypical "teardrop" shape, but not much trunk room there)

  • Ricky Spanish Ricky Spanish on Aug 21, 2007

    Kevin Klutz I just have one word for your post. Werd.

  • Dean Dean on Aug 21, 2007

    I wish the person who backed into my motorcycle and knocked it over last week had one of these. Correction: a functioning one of these.