In 2007, Congress approved
legislation, backed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), mandating that all passenger cars, trucks, minivans and buses
manufactured in the U.S. with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less be equipped with back-up cameras. The legislation required the government to finalize rear-visibility rules by 2011, but the ruling has been repeatedly delayed. NHTSA missed proposed deadlines requiring 10% compliance for automakers’ fleets by 2012, 40% by 2013 and 100% of new vehicles to be equipped by 2014, the latest deadline on track to pass.
The intent of the legislation is to try and reduce the annual number of back-over fatalities and injuries. According to NHTSA, 292 people die every year from back-over accidents, and another 18,000 are injured. But one of the problems that keeps causing delays is that official guidelines for rear-view camera technology jut haven’t come together. Rules governing the placement of such cameras and the in-vehicle displays, the minimum field of vision for the devices and what type of warning systems need to be installed, have caused so much debate that the ruling is still in limbo. There is also the question regarding the possibility that this new technology can create a driving population that is reliant on gadgets to do the driving for them rather than using safe driving training and behavior to operate a vehicle.
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland says that the agency now has no firm deadline to finalize vehicle back-up camera compliance rules because “We want to make sure we get it right.” According to a recent article in USATODAY, the argument to delay implementation, however, could stem from the fact that the rule has a very high cost for the expected number of lives saved. In 2009, NHTSA estimated that it could cost currently between $1.5 billion and $3 billion to have rear-view cameras installed in all new cars. Despite the fact that new car manufacturers install back-up cameras in more than half of their new vehicles, it could still cost the consumers upwards of $10 million per life saved. The financial slant on the ruling is because all major rules must go through a cost-benefit analysis that is reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to determine if the costs are high relative to benefits. But, because children are often the victims of backing accidents, the OMB might be inclined to offer some special consideration. Representative Peter King (R-NY) who co-sponsored the legislation requiring NHTSA to issue a rear visibility ruling, posted the question: “Is it dollars or is it children’s lives?”
In a statement issued in April 2013, NHTSA said that the Agency “remains committed to improving rear-view visibility for the nation’s automobiles. The rule remains under