Cam­era ob­scured

Herald Sun - Motoring - - COMMENT - PAUL POTTINGER CARSGUIDE ED­I­TOR paul.pottinger@carsguide.com.au

THIS week a relieved mother — whose 14-month-old son mer­ci­fully suf­fered only mi­nor in­juries when run over by a re­vers­ing car — called for all new cars to be fit­ted with re­vers­ing cam­eras. That’s en­tirely un­der­stand­able and sen­si­ble. Carsguide is in ac­cord.

Some mod­els as cheap as $24,000 are fit­ted with th­ese life­sav­ing de­vices. Other ve­hi­cles in the same show­room with a sim­i­lar sticker price are not. Yet oth­ers val­ued at four times this sum re­quire you to tick the op­tional ex­tras box.

At best this is in­con­sis­tent; at worst it’s cyn­i­cal and in­iq­ui­tous.

It’s a fact of life that the sight lines of con­tem­po­rary cars are di­min­ish­ing in all di­rec­tions, not least to­wards the rear. The rea­son is not enig­matic. De­sign is essen­tially a process of com­pro­mise and all-round vi­sion is the vic­tim of the ne­ces­sity for ve­hi­cles to punch through the air with the least re­sis­tance — the lower the drag co­ef­fi­cient, the lower the fuel con­sump­tion.

It can be ar­gued the cheap­est cars — at least in their cur­rent gen­er­a­tions — might be ex­empted from such rules.

How­ever, there is ev­ery rea­son for re­vers­ing cam­eras to be as com­pul­sory as seat belts, anti-lock brakes and sta­bil­ity con­trol to achieve the max­i­mum safety rat­ing.

Surely this is a point on which all with­out an ul­te­rior mo­tive for the sta­tus quo can be agreed.

So it’s fairly ter­ri­fy­ing to hear a me­dia ex­pert re­mark that re­vers­ing cam­eras are “in­ef­fec­tive if the driver is not ac­tu­ally look­ing at the screen”.

Um, OK. Nor are belts ef­fec­tive if they’re not buck­led nor in­di­ca­tors if they’re not ac­ti­vated. But they’re kind of nec­es­sary, right?

Or maybe not, ac­cord­ing to the same in­di­vid­ual. He cites an ill-at­tested study to the ef­fect that “some re­searchers con­sulted for the pa­per sug­gested the fit­ment of cam­eras could cre­ate com­pla­cency with driv­ers”. There was more, but I can­not bring my­self to per­pet­u­ate it.

Suf­fice that it’s the sort of quasi-Dar­winian rea­son­ing we used to hear from the NSW Cen­tre of Road Safety (an out­fit named with­out irony), whose pol­icy it was to op­pose train­ing young peo­ple to drive on the grounds that this would make them “over con­fi­dent”. Just give ’em a li­cence for life and na­ture will take its course. This is plainly de­ranged.

Com­ing new-gen­er­a­tion mod­els in which re­vers­ing cam­eras are not of­fered as an af­ford­able op­tion at the very least are no longer el­i­gi­ble for Carsguide Car of the Year.

Safety fo­cus: This Hyundai dis­plays the re­vers­ing cam­era im­age in the rear-view mir­ror

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