Are backup cameras required on new vehicles? (Updated)

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Things to remember...
  • All new cars are required to have backup cameras installed
  • Backup cameras will not get you a car insurance discount
  • Backup cameras are predicted to save many lives each year


As of May 1, 2018, all new cars in the United States must come equipped with backup cameras. The law requiring these cameras started its phase-in process in May 2016 and completed enforcement May 1, 2018.

Families of children who have been killed by cars backing up were the major catalyst to set this requirement in motion. They lobbied for this law and criticized the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for not acting sooner.

The goal of making these cameras mandatory is to save the lives of children and seniors in particular.

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Do backup cameras help save lives?

The goal of the requirement to have all new vehicles installed with backup cameras is to save lives, in particular, the lives of the most vulnerable to backup collisions, children and seniors.

Here are some statistics:

  • 31 percent of fatalities resulting from backup collisions are children under five years old
  • 26 percent of these fatalities are seniors over 70 years old
  • Of the nearly 300 lives taken each year by backup crashes, NHTSA predicts that up to a quarter of those fatalities will be prevented when backup cameras are installed in all vehicles

The convenience of backup cameras can’t be disputed. Most drivers that have a screen showing their rear view are very happy with the increased ease of backing into parking spots and avoiding obstructions.

The huge blind spot behind the vehicle can be decreased by 90 percent thanks to rear-view cameras, but despite the helpfulness of these cameras, drivers must remember to actually look behind them and use their mirrors along with checking their screen for the camera view.

Another helpful tip is to turn off your radio and open your windows when backing up so you can hear something that could alert you to a person in your blind spot.

The statistics on backup cameras preventing non-human collisions is inconclusive. While backup property damage claims went down up to seven percent in some vehicles, claims actually rose in other vehicles. The technology and use of technology still need improvement.

Car manufacturers have a lot of leeway in how the screens for the cameras are displayed, and each manufacturer’s system has a different rate of effectiveness.

Often, sensors are installed in addition to the cameras. Use alone, they help avoid collisions only by two or three percent as shown in a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Surprisingly, camera systems with sensors performed statistically worse than cameras alone.

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Will backup cameras get me an insurance discount?

Currently, there isn’t a car insurance discount for backup cameras. Some would argue that with the increased cost of installing this technology, insurance rates will increase because of the cameras.

If your particular model of vehicle experiences an overall decrease in claims as a result of an effective camera system, the base rate to insure it should decrease to reflect the lesser risk.

In a roundabout way, you may pay lower premiums because of a backup camera, but the opposite is true if you have one of the vehicles that could experience more risk because of the cameras.

If you have a vehicle without an installed system, there are several aftermarket cameras and screens that are available for purchase. Some of the highest rated cameras are listed below:

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