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How to Save a Life: Rear Cross Traffic Alert Systems

“REAR CROSS TRAFFIC ALERTS FAIL TO DETECT MAJORITY OF PEDESTRIANS,” stated the alarming headline of an American Automobile Association (AAA) news release.

Cars equipped with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) Systems utilize radar to detect possible accidents and collisions while drivers are backing out of parking spaces.  Primarily designed to detect vehicles approaching from behind, drivers are warned via a high-pitched electronic-sounding “beep” that penetrates the human brain and travels through the nervous system, causing drivers to brake hard.

If a driver overrides the instinct to brake for moving vehicles and to a lesser extent, pedestrians, the system can intervene with automatic braking.

According to the AAA’s research, crowded parking lots set the stage for “distracted driving” of operatic proportions and pose hazardous safety risks to motorists and pedestrians. In a scenario where a car backing up from a parking space is flanked by two larger parked vehicles such as SUVs or minivans, the RCTA system will be blocked by the larger vehicles and unable to do its job and sense passing traffic.

Cars backing out of diagonal parking spaces are in double jeopardy if there are vehicles on either side.

As we can all relate to backing up in supermarkets, schools, corporate, and large event parking lots, when it comes to collision avoidance and saving lives, the limitations of RCTA systems cannot be emphasized enough.

Among the AAA’s disturbing findings:

  • Passing motorcyclists went undetected nearly 50 % of the time.
  • 40% of passing bicyclists went undetected.
  • Passing vehicles were unrecognized 30% of the time.
  • While many RCTA systems aren’t designed to detect pedestrians, they went undetected in 60% of instances.

AAA recommends that “even if your vehicle is equipped with an  RCTA system, always reverse slowly, turning and checking blind spots to verify that a vehicle, bicyclist or pedestrian is not approaching the vehicle. Whenever possible, reverse into a parking space. Driving forward out of a parking space increases driver visibility and lessens the likelihood of a crash.”

Care to join me in a safety dance?

Alan Geller
My name is Alan Geller. A journalist, actor, music promoter, executive recruiter, and automotive brand specialist, in summary, I find it best not to summarize :-)

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