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Use of Backup Cameras Allowed in Pennsylvania Driver's Tests

While backup cameras are allowed, drivers cannot use parallel parking-assisted technology in which the car essentially parks itself.

by Holly Herman, Reading Eagle / October 10, 2016

(TNS) — Shillington, Pa. — After parallel parking perfectly the old-fashioned way, 21-year-old Donald Joseph passed his driving test.

It was the Muhlenberg Township resident's third attempt, and he did exactly what state transportation officials want drivers to do: Learn how to parallel park with their eyes and mirrors without the aid of rear-camera technology.

Using backup cameras during driving tests became a topic of discussion recently when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a law giving that state's driving hopefuls the legal right to use a vehicle's cameras and sensors during the on-road test.

New Jersey Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald, a Camden Democrat, introduced the legislation after his daughter was asked to cover the backup camera in her vehicle before taking the test.

Greenwald said backup cameras have become standard features in cars, and their use in driving test laws should be allowed. The New Jersey law reversed the state's Motor Vehicle Commission edict requiring that cameras be disabled.

No such law is needed in Pennsylvania, however, because the Department of Motor Vehicles already allows test-takers to use backup cameras, transportation officials said.

Drivers, however, cannot use parallel parking-assisted technology in which the car basically parks itself.

Department spokeswoman Alexis Campbell said PennDOT cannot prevent the use of backup cameras because many new vehicles are equipped with cameras that can't be turned off. And by federal law, automakers will be required to install backup cameras in all new vehicles by 2018.

"PennDOT is supportive of technological advances that enhance safety, and it's important that drivers know how to use that technology," Campbell said.

Even so, transportation officials prefer that prospective Pennsylvania drivers know how to parallel park on their own.

"Parallel parking is the first part of the driving-skills test not simply because parallel parking is a useful skill, but because it allows our examiners to determine whether a new driver has the necessary vehicle control and hand-eye coordination before they go on the open roadway," Campbell said.

Eric D. Bugaile, executive director of the Pennsylvania House Transportation committee, said Pennsylvania doesn't have any legislation pending with regard to auto technology and driver testing, but that doesn't mean it won't come up.

"When another state does something like this, it does put some impetus for members to look at this," Bugaile said. "People generally want to learn how to operate a car. Not every car is equipped with a camera, and you have to learn how to operate a car."

On a recent afternoon at the driver testing center in Shillington, Eugenio Berrios, 61, of Reading said his daughter, Yajaira, 29, learned how to drive without the use of a backup camera, even though her vehicle had one.

"My daughter has been practicing parallel parking for a long time," he said. "She doesn't need a camera."

Yajaira backed perfectly into a space between the 3-foot-high cones, then completed the driving course and passed the test.

"I did not even look at my camera screen," she said later.

©2016 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.