The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is debating whether to require rear view cameras in new passenger cars by 2014.
The government agency announced on February 28th that is was going to petition Congress for the regulation, but the next day Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood backed off, citing that more research and analysis is needed before the agency asks for the new rule. Requiring manufacturers to install rear view cameras is projected to cost the industry $2.7 billion, or roughly $200 per vehicle.
Congress approved a law to establish standards for rear view cameras in 2008, but no such standards have been developed yet. Government studies have found that backover accidents kill 228 people every year, including two children a week (usually the children of the person backing up the vehicle), and injure 17,000 people annually. Rear view cameras, which give the driver a view of what is behind them, can help prevent these types of car accidents.
Though the auto industry claims it did not ask the NHTSA to rescind its petition, the auto industry lobbying group, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, wants the government to consider other, less costly alternatives to rear view cameras, such as mirrors similar to those on large commercial trucks. Proponents of the requirement believe that these alternatives would not be popular with manufacturers or drivers and that the NHTSA eventually will recommend the requirement, as it did with airbags in the past.
Currently, insurance companies do not offer discounts on cars with rear view cameras due to the perceived lack of research supporting the benefits of the cameras; moreover, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does not believe that requiring the cameras will eliminate backover crashes. However, the NHTSA has performed at least three studies on the effects of rear view cameras and other technologies on backover crashes, one of which found that rear view cameras were able to identify pedestrians in the majority of testing scenarios.
Despite the lack of support for the regulation, auto manufacturers recognize that the public wants these life-saving devices. Rear view cameras come standard on 45 percent of 2012 models, and 23 percent of models include rear view cameras as options, despite a lack of federal requirement. At least three manufacturers—Infiniti, Ford and Cadillac—offer vehicles with more advanced technologies to prevent backover accidents, including cameras, chimes, and automatic braking features.
It is also possible to retrofit older vehicles with rear view cameras. After-market rear view cameras are hard-wired to the car’s electrical system and can be mounted on the bumper, the trailer hitch or the license plate mounting of a vehicle. Consumer Reports recommends that owners have the systems professionally installed. After-market cameras typically cost between $50 and $200, and Consumer Reports warns that drivers will get what they pay for.
In addition to rear view cameras, it is also possible to retrofit cars with audible sensors that warn drivers if the car is too close to another object. The sensors can be placed on the front and/or rear bumpers of the car. They typically are sold separately from rear view cameras, however if the car originally came with rear view cameras, they typically are included along with the cameras.
Rear view cameras, audible chimes and automatic braking have the potential to prevent accidents and save lives. If you or a loved one have been injured in a back-over accident, please consult an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can advise you on your rights and pursue all due compensation on your behalf.