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U.S. To Require Rearview Cameras On All Cars By 2014: UPDATED

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2012 Dodge Durango - ParkView back up camera

2012 Dodge Durango - ParkView back up camera

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UPDATED: See below

On July 8, 2004, five-year-old Benjamin Donnell was killed when his father backed over him in the family's SUV. On October 9, 2004, two-year-old Adrianna Clemens met a similarly tragic fate.

These stories are not unusual. In fact, according to a report in the New York Times, over 50 children in the U.S. are hurt every week when they get caught behind a moving vehicle. On average, two of those children die.

This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will announce plans to address this problem by mandating that all passenger vehicles come with rearview cameras by 2014. The plan comes after a study encouraged by advocacy groups like KidsAndCars, which began gathering stories like those of Benjamin and Adrianna to bring attention to the prevalence of backover accidents.

The regulation stems from a 2008 law called the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, which required the NHTSA to gather information about rear-visibility and set appropriate safety standards. The law was named for two-year-old Cameron Gulbransen, who was killed after being struck by an SUV driven by his father.

The rationale

In terms of off-road accidents, more children die from backovers than from any other cause. But children aren't the only ones who fall prey to vehicles in reverse. Up to 17,000 people of all ages are injured each year in those situations.

The major cause of backover accidents is the blind spot immediately behind a vehicle. Ironically, this has become a bigger problem over the years, as auto designers have enlarged vehicles, raised beltlines, and reduced the size of windows to improve vehicle safety. In fact, the number of child fatalities stemming from backovers jumped 88% between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s.

Rearview cameras are intended to eliminate the blind spot and reduce the number of accidents. (The NHTSA looked at alternative solutions, but none were as effective as the cameras.) While the devices won't solve the problem entirely, they could reduce the number of injuries and deaths by half.

The cost

Like any improvement -- whether it's better fuel economy or an added brake light -- rearview cameras will come at a cost. Regulators estimate that the feature will add around $160 - $200 to the price of a new vehicle.

The good news is that rearview cameras are already standard equipment on over 45% of all 2012 vehicles. For safety advocates, that means we're getting a head-start on the program. For shoppers, it means that you won't need to upgrade thousands of dollars to a deluxe package to get a rearview camera on your next car or truck. 

For more stories about the problem of backover accidents, visit KidsAndCars.org. And be sure to catch their PSA below, demonstrating how a whopping 62 children can fit in the blind spot of a large SUV:

UPDATE: According to AutoNews, the NHTSA will not make its announcement this week. In fact, it has likely been delayed until the end of the year.

This is the second time this announcement has been pushed back. Former president George W. Bush signed a law in 2008 requiring that the new backover safety regulations be unveiled by the end of 2011. However, in an emailed statement, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said that the Department of Transportation and the NHTSA need more time to study "a wider range of vehicles and drivers".

That doesn't sound as if cameras themselves are off the table. In fact, it seems pretty clear from the existing data that cameras trump other devices -- including backup alarms -- in terms of bystander safety. From LaHood's brief statement it would appear that the feds are stalling for time to finesse the specific thresholds that the new technology will need to meet, like width and depth of field. 

Bottom line: barring the development of some spectacular new technology, rearview cameras will likely become standard equipment on new vehicles very soon. Depending on the timing of the NHTSA announcement, that may not be possible by 2014, but 2015 would be a good guess.

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Comments (13)
  1. Unfortunately, regulators are looking at a single solution where other solutions may be better in some cases.

    For example, I like the sensor backup system that beeps much better - I have less problems with road grime effecting the performance compared to a camera - A big issue in rainy/snowy areas. My sensor still works well when I cannot see out of a rear-view camera sensor in a friends car.

    A regulation should specify a device to alert drivers rather than specify the type of device and greatly limit innovation and possible better capabilities.
     
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  2. Actually, the NHTSA looked at beeping backup systems. They found that they didn't work as well as camera systems for deterring children. So for now, the camera seems to be the best bet.
     
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  3. The beeping backup may not deter children as well but is a $5 cost add to any other system such as a sonar type system that warns a driver (beeps inside the car). It adds benefit at extremely low cost. I do not think a camera system would deter a child outside of a car at all - it is a driver warning system.
     
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  4. What are the chances you don't see a children behind your car when you're driving an pick-up truck or large SUV, comparing to when you drive an Fiat 500 or other small hatchback?
     
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  5. I can't speak for the NHTSA, but I think they would argue that all vehicles, regardless of size, have a blind spot, and trying to differentiate between classes -- at least in consumer passenger vehicles -- would be difficult. Probably easier and simpler to set one requirement for all vehicles, despite some variances in the depths of those blind spots.
     
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  6. Clearly this can help prevent a slew of injuries, but I'm afraid it might, like many other assistive technologies, remove a certain amount of personal responsibility in accidents that still happen. What if the camera is malfunctioning or there is a blind spot on the camera installed? People start expecting they're 100% in the clear because the camera says so, but this isn't always the case. Not saying it's a bad idea, but people are bound to rely too heavily on the technology.
     
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  7. As hard as they try they(NHTSA,automobile manufactures)will never be able to overcome the personal responsibility that goes along with getting behind the wheel of an automobile.

    Where is the outcry when people forget their child/children in a car with the windows up and the child dies?
     
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  8. Again, speaking for the NHTSA (something I probably shouldn't do), I don't think anyone would want to absolve drivers from responsibility behind the wheel. As I see it, the goal is to minimize the margin of error as much as possible.

    True, this may open up automakers and tech manufacturers to lawsuits over things like malfunctioning cameras. But then, every added thing -- from tires to seat belts -- carries with it that possibility.
     
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  9. Agreed. I'm not disagreeing with the legislation, it's just frustrating when people get lazy and careless with preventative technology.
     
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  10. I guess I have a hard time believing that 45% of all 2012 vehicles have rear view cameras standard. I've seen this statistic on several news sites. Just looking at the top 10 vehicles, only the CRV in the top 10 has it standard on every vehicle and the Camry has it on every vehicle above the base model, but unless I'm not seeing it, the Impala, Corolla/Matrix and Civic do not even offer it. The others only offer it as packages or usually only on higher line models, not exactly standard. Could it be its just that 45% of all 2012 vehicles offer it somewhere in their line-up?
     
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  11. The figure comes from Edmunds, which is reliable as these things go. Keep in mind, though, that it's not 45% of all cars sold, but rather 45% of 2012 models. There's a big difference.
     
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  12. roughly half the cars on the road made in the last 5 years have some sort of backup sensor device. I believe the majority of new cars in 2012 (that don't rely on some sort of backup camera) have them.

    frankly it's a better system, one doesn't have to look at the center of the dash they can focus on their mirrors while backing, the driver can use their hearing to determine exactly how far they are from an obstacle. mine goes "beep beep beep" then a solid "beeeeeeeeeeeep" when I'm roughly 10 inches from hitting something. never bumped into a single thing, including parallel parking in a tight space without having to look over my shoulder. don't want it, not gonna pay for it, don't need it. let those who want a camera make that choice.
     
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  13. backup sensors are infinitely better. don't have to turn your head, don't have to look at the center of the dash. all you have to do is keep watching your mirrors while listening for the sequence of beeps to be able to tell exactly how far you are from an obstacle (mine gives a solid "beeeeeeep" when I'm about 10" away from an object.

    regulators looking at this with their stupid glasses on. my wife's last car had a backup camera and I hated it. I could never tell how far I was from something, and if the lens got dirty or bad weather I couldn't see at all. plus, most new cars in 2012 that don't have a camera have another backup system that is at least equally as good. auto lobbyists need to set them straight.
     
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