RECENT TESTS by NRMA Insurance show that most passenger cars in Australia offer poor rear visibility - a key factor in accidents leading to deaths of children in driveways.
The 2009 Reversing Visibility Index, which lists results for 205 tested vehicles, shows that only five percent achieved a full 'five star' result - up from zer0 percent in 2004.
The NRMA attributes the slight improvement to the increasing provision of reversing cameras in new cars. For the first time, reversing cameras are now available for the Ford Falcon and Toyota Camry/Aurion as either an option or as standard on up-spec models.
â€œBoth Ford and Toyota are to be congratulated on their move to introduce reversing cameras to the large vehicle category â€“ meaning more Australian families will have access to this life saving technology,â€ NRMA Insurance Spokesperson Robert McDonald said.
â€œWe would like to encourage other manufacturers to follow their lead.
Five star vehicles for rear visibility include the BMW X5, Ford Territory, Holden Commodore Sportwagon, Honda Legend, Kia Soul, Lexus GS 430, IS 250, LS 460 and 570, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the Toyota Kluger.
Among the 22 vehicles receiving a zer0 score were the Audi A3 Cabriolet and S4 sedan, the Citroen C5, Ford Falcon, Holden Commodore, Cruze and Epica, Honda Acord, Accord Euro and Civic, Hyundai i30, Kia Cerato, Cerato Koup, Mazda3 and Mazda6, Mitsubishi Lancer hatch and sedan, Proton Persona, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, Prado and Rav-4.
â€œLess than ten years ago, no manufacturers had reversing cameras, however around half now have them on at least one of their models. And it is pleasing to see manufacturers of more affordable cars, like Kia for example, also embrace this technology," Mr McDonald said.
â€œDisplay screens are already installed in many new cars for audio, GPS and air-conditioning. This means a reversing camera can easily be added to the existing system, which hopefully means manufacturers will continue to make them available.â€
Mazda Australia Public Relations Manager Steve Maciver said that rearward visibility has not been raised as a concern by owners of either the Mazda3 or Mazda 6, or "for that matter, owners of any Mazda vehicle".
"Mazda takes both occupant and pedestrian safety very seriously and this is demonstrated by the large number of both active and passive safety features available across the whole Mazda range," Mr Maciver said.
"As part of Mazdaâ€™s product development process, safety continues to be high on the list. As such, we will continue to look at any further opportunities to improve safety in future models through the integration of new technologies."
Scott Whiffin, Holden's National Media Manager pointed to the 5-Star ANCAP safety rating of the Commodore and Cruze ranges as evidence of Holden's commitment to safety.
"Safety is not negotiable with our cars - not ever. That's why all of our locally built passenger car range and Cruze have been given a five star safety rating from ANCAP.
"The Sportwagon has reverse parking senses as standard across the range, reverse cameras are standard on Calais V Sportwagon and optional on all other VE Sportwagons," Mr Whiffin said.