If you are a parent or grandparent of young kids or teen drivers, the time to add a backup camera to your car is now.
Backup cameras are so critical to safety that the US government ruled they be included in all cars produced from June 2018 and on.
In 2002, pediatrician Greg Gulbransen walked outside to his SUV unaware that his 2 year old followed behind him. As he backed up the car, he tragically killed his son. About 70 young children die each year in a similar way, often with a parent or grandparent at the wheel. But it’s a preventable calamity.
All cars have a blind zone behind them, even if you check your mirrors before backing out. In fact, you can fit more than 60 small children into the blind zone behind an SUV and still see not a hair on their heads in any of your mirrors, says advocacy group kidsandcars.org.
Backup cameras are also helpful if you want to protect your car from dings and dents. They help you see that pole behind the car and can prevent you from losing your insurance deductible for a minor accident.
The good news is you don’t have to buy a new car to get backover protection. Backup cameras are available at the local car audio shop or Best Buy. These shops charge less than you’d pay at the car dealer for a camera option. And many stereo shops are the very same installing the cameras behind the scenes for the local car dealerships, so with a little homework, you can find a first rate installer.
Stay away from the cheapest models (under $79). You may get a grainy image that’s hard to see. The step up models, ($100 to $150) offer better visibility at night or in foul weather.
The installer will mount the camera on a license plate holder or bumper. Then you need a way to view the image from the camera, usually on the screen of the car radio. If your radio isn’t compliant, you can swap it for a new one. Or some retailers offer kits specifically for your car model that can convert your old radio to a backup camera-ready device.
A third option is to actually replace your rear view mirror with a “smart mirror” that has a built in LCD screen. When not in use, it looks just like a typical mirror, but when the car goes into reverse, an LCD screen appears with an image showing what’s behind the car.