Rearview Cameras by 2018 for Cars and Light Trucks
By CHERYL JENSENMARCH 31, 2014
Six years ago, Congress mandated auto safety regulators to pass a federal standard by 2011 that would help keep drivers from running over small children as they backed up their vehicles.
On Monday, after three years of repeated delays and a lawsuit, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the new rule: By May 2018, all new cars and light trucks must be equipped with rearview cameras.
“We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of backover accidents — our children and seniors,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
The announcement came one day before a federal appeals court was scheduled to hear arguments in a lawsuit filed last September by a consortium of safety groups over the delays and one day before a House panel will ask the safety agency’s acting administrator why it did not investigate ignition switch flaws with General Motors cars. Consumer advocates and safety experts praised the announcement, though they said it should have come sooner.
“It’s been a long fight, and this rule took too long, but we’re thrilled this day has finally come,” Dr. Greg Gulbransen of Syosset, N.Y., said in a statement. In 2002, Dr. Gulbransen backed over his 2-year-old son, Cameron, in a driveway, killing him.
Dr. Gulbransen was one of the plaintiffs in the suit, along with Susan Auriemma, who injured her 3-year-old daughter in 2005 when backing up in Manhasset, N.Y. They were joined in the suit by three consumer groups — Kids and Cars Inc., Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Consumers Union. Public Citizen represented the plaintiffs.
“This rule should have been in place three years ago at the latest, but this rule will save lives,” Dr. Gulbransen said.
An estimated 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries are caused every year by backover accidents, the agency said. Of those, children under the age of 5 account for 31 percent of the fatalities and adults 70 years of age and older account for 26 percent.
For children of all ages, an average of two die every week and 48 are injured when someone accidentally backs over them, said Janette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org, a nonprofit group that pushed the government to begin tracking such tragedies.
The safety agency said that it wanted to get the best rule in place.
“N.H.T.S.A. took time on this regulation to ensure that the policy was right and make the rule flexible and achievable,” the agency said in a statement.
The agency estimates that, including vehicles that already have systems installed, 58 to 69 lives will be saved each year once all vehicles on the road are equipped. The final rule applies to all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, including passenger vehicles, buses and trucks.
If Ms. Fennell had any wish, it was that automakers were not required to install the cameras sooner. “It is disappointing that they are giving automakers until 2018 to comply,” she said.
Rear cameras already are standard or optional equipment on 85 percent of model year 2014 vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That compares with only 5 percent of vehicles available with rear cameras in 2005.
The final rule amends a current standard by expanding the area behind a vehicle that must be visible to the driver when the vehicle is shifted into reverse. That field of view must include a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. The system used must meet other requirements as well, including the size of the image displayed for the driver.
According to the safety regulators, automakers in the near term will use rearview video systems and in-vehicle displays to meet the requirements.
Consumers have been quick to embrace the cameras once they have a car equipped with them.
“Those of us who review vehicles for a living immediately found the value of rearview cameras when we first drove vehicles so equipped, and we have been strong proponents of the technology ever since,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “The decision by N.H.T.S.A. to require them in all passenger cars is a welcome one, and we are certain it will result in many saved lives.”
For Ms. Fennell, the new rule cannot come soon enough.
“People love them. I get the same reaction that I had when I got mine,” she said. “I said I would never drive a car without one again.”