Reversing a vehicle can be both awkward and dangerous, as it is often difficult to see the area behind a car, truck or SUV completely. To keep pedestrians and others safe, federal law requires all new cars sold in the U.S. to have a backup camera.

Backup cameras broadcast footage from the rear of a vehicle into its cabin, giving drivers a real-time look at what is behind their vehicles. Misusing a backup camera, though, may put pedestrians at risk.

Over-reliance on the camera

A car’s reverse camera is a safety and convenience enhancement, but it does not take the place of a traditional over-the-shoulder glance. After all, even the best reverse cameras only give drivers about an 80-degree view of the area behind their vehicles.

Before climbing behind the wheel, a safe driver should examine the outside of his or her vehicle, including the space behind it. Then, they should look in all mirrors and over both shoulders.

Put simply, driver’s who over-rely on a backup camera can be a recipe for disaster.

Mechanical problems

Like with any automotive part, backup cameras are vulnerable to both design flaws and mechanical damage. Recently, the Ford Motor Company recalled more than 700,000 vehicles for defective backup cameras. If a vehicle is subject to this recall, its reverse camera may provide distorted video or go dark.

Even if a car’s backup camera does not have mechanical problems, a dirty lens may disguise pedestrians behind the vehicle. Consequently, before using a backup camera, diligent drivers should be sure the camera is clean and functioning optimally.