New technology in cars is significantly cutting the number of backup crashes, according to a new report. Rear automatic braking, an option in just 5 percent of new vehicles, is linked to a 62 percent drop in reported backup accidents in cars with that equipment. Combining automatic braking with rearview cameras and sensors can reportedly cut reverse crashes by 78 percent.
There's hope that the advances could help save lives. Michael Dahlen's 2-year-old daughter Abigail died in 2010 when a neighbor backed out of his driveway, not seeing the child behind the car, reports CBS News' Kris Van Cleave.
"It was so shocking and sudden," Dahlen said. "I went and had to climb under a car and pick up her body. It was, it was a hard day."
Starting in May, all new cars in the U.S. will be required to have a rearview camera. Some automakers are going further by adding backup warning sensors and reverse automatic braking. For the first time, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested that combination of technology.
Two models — the 2017 Subaru Outback and Cadillac XT5 SUV — earned superior ratings. Four other vehicles scored an advanced rating for generally avoiding a collision or substantially reducing the vehicle's speed.
But there's some room to improve. One vehicle did not stop automatically when backing up to a dummy car parked at an angle.
"The rear autobrake, the sensors, the cameras are going to prevent a lot of property damage crashes and we hope they are also going to prevent some crashes involving people," said IIHS chief research officer David Zuby.
Dahlen hopes the technology will one day mean no other parent has to lose a child like he did.
"I still have nightmares. I still have flashbacks, and I wish that — I don't want anybody to go through it," Zuby said.
The reverse braking systems are focused on preventing collisions with obstacles, but that technology may soon be expanded to protect against pedestrian crashes. Automatic braking in the front will become standard in most cars in 2022 but there's currently no plan to make it standard for backing up.