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December 13, 2006

Save Lives, Prevent Accidents with Backup Camera

The Roadmaster VR3 rearview camera is a product that everyone who drives needs; it should be required standard equipment on every vehicle on the road.
This lifesaving, accident-preventing tool comes in a box with all the cables, mounts, electrical connectors necessary to install the camera. You can power the monitor with the cigarette lighter adapter or hardwire it to the car’s electrical system. You must also run power to the camera from the backup light. Communication between the camera and the monitor is wireless. The camera bolts to the top of your rear license plate, and there are shims to adjust the angle of the camera.

The 2 7/8” diagonal LCD monitor offers a color display with contrast, brightness, and directional adjustments. I mounted it on my dashboard using the adjustable holder that comes with it. You peel off the tape on the bottom to reveal the sticky stuff that adheres it to the dash firmly and conveniently in any location you choose for viewing. Alternatively, you can mount the monitor anywhere you wish with the Velcro patches supplied in the box.

The way it works is that when you put the car in reverse, the camera turns on, and the screen lights up with a picture of whatever is directly behind the car.

It's a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to the ever-present danger of running over objects, pets, and people that you cannot see when you back up.

I actually know a poor fellow who ran over and killed one of his children, and you read about such tragic occurrences all too often. My wife once made a kitten pancake and some very unhappy children when she backed up and flattened a poor little feline.

The first time I tried it and the screen lit up, I guess I was surprised that it was in full living color. I think I assumed it would be black and white.

It takes a few seconds for the monitor to come into focus, so it's a good idea to wait until you get a clear picture before you start backing up.

I admit that it's kind of a let down when you shift out of reverse, start moving forward, and the camera shuts off. I think it would be fun to be able to turn the camera on at will to see what's back there. I suppose you could wire it that way if you really wanted to go to the trouble.

The view in the camera takes some getting used to at first, for it is not the same as the view in your rear view mirror. You have to learn to measure the distances between you and objects on the screen. They are farther away than they appear to be on the screen.

Backing at night in the dark is not too enlightening. At least in my car the backup lights do not fully illuminate the stage.

For instance, as an experiment, I placed a green, plastic garbage can about six feet behind my car at night. I could not even vaguely make it out in the screen display. Rather, it looked as if it were snowing back there. I could see car headlights passing, but it takes a lot of light to illuminate objects enough to see them at night. Therefore, you cannot depend on it for backup safety at night, which is a disappointment.

Maybe other vehicles have brighter backup lights, or at least they should.

In any case, I still recommend this system as a safety precaution that could save lives. I firmly believe that all cars should come equipped with a backup camera and that people should be required to install one at the risk of a ticket without one. In my opinion, the law should at least require all trucks, SUVs, trailers, campers, and RVs to have a backup camera.

At the same time, the technology needs to be improved for night vision by improving the camera or making backup lights brighter. There should also be some kind of telemetrics so that you could tell how far you are from objects behind you.

The suggested retail price of the unit is $199, but a little judicious Web surfing will undoubtedly yield better prices. For instance, I found one site that offers a two for one special with free shipping: This is a great offer if you have more than one vehicle or a trailer. On the other hand, I’ve seen them for $98 at WalMart.

If you’ve been good this year, why not ask Santa for one?

If you’ve been good this year, why not ask Santa for one?

Posted by tim at December 13, 2006 04:29 PM


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