🚗 Systems designed to prevent backup crashes are not 100% foolproof, AAA says

🚗 Crashes with children and cross traffic are still at risk despite technology

🚗Drivers should not solely rely on reverse technology to prevent collisions

A new AAA study found that backing unsafely has caused thousands of crashes, but the systems designed to prevent them are also not foolproof.

Technology designed to help cars back up more safely failed to prevent a crash with children half the time, according to AAA research. Even more alarming is that in scenarios involving cross-traffic behind the car, the technology rarely fully prevented a collision.


Reversing vehicles were involved in more than 57,000 injuries and over 1,300 fatalities nationwide from 2016-2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration.

In New Jersey in 2021, which was the last year that the complete data was available, there were 9,631 crashes where the crash type was listed as backing unsafely. Three of those were fatal and 380 of those resulted in injury, according to Shani Jarvis, outreach manager for AAA Northeast.

If you look at a five-year period going back to 2017, there were 55,581 crashes, seven of which were fatal, and 2,125 resulted in injury, she said.

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What is Reverse Automatic Emergency Braking?

Reverse automatic emergency braking (AEB) is the system designed to automatically activate a car’s brakes when it detects a potential collision behind the car, said Jarvis. This could be cross-traffic, a stationary object, or a pedestrian.

“What the AAA Foundation Study found is that it’s been proven effective in scenarios where a vehicle might back into another stationary vehicle but it does have some limitations as to how it would work,” Jarvis said.


The AEB did not perform perfectly when there was a simulation involving a 7-year-old child. She said when the test vehicle was backing out of a parking space into the path of a pedestrian target designed to represent a 7-year-old, the reverse AEB systems automatically applied the brakes in 75% of the tests and only prevented a collision in 50% of tests.

Close Up Of Two Cars Damaged In Road Traffic Accident

Cross Traffic

Jarvis said when the test vehicle was backing out of a parking space into the path of an oncoming vehicle, let’s say in a parking lot, for example, the reverse AEB systems applied the brakes in 65% of tests and prevented a collision in 2.5% of tests.

What is the takeaway from this study?

While AEB certainly has its benefits, it is not a substitute for an attentive driver. “We recommend that drivers stay engaged. Don’t solely focus on the technology and don’t solely rely on the technology. We want to make sure that you’re paying attention when you’re driving,” Jarvis said.

Also, back up slowly. Drivers should back up cautiously when their side vision is obstructed and allow the technology to “see” past the obstruction to detect cross-traffic.


Backing up slowly also gives the system time to apply the brakes and prevent a collision.

If possible, pull through a space in a parking lot so that you can exit the spot moving forward. It gives you a clearer picture of what’s going on around you so you don’t have to worry about backing, Jarvis said.

Always remember that AEB is not foolproof. It is meant to assist the driver, and not meant to replace an engaged driver.

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