Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated his department needs more time for “research and data analysis” before it can issue new rules/regulations aimed at assisting drivers to avoid accidentally backing over children. In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed requiring increased driver rear-visibility in new vehicles, a standard that would basically require rear dash-mounted video cameras with in-dash vehicle display screens. The regulations were to be phased in and applied to all automobiles and light trucks by the 2014 model year. As a result of an increase in accidents in which children were backed over, largely due to blind spots/zones in large sport utility vehicles and pick-ups, Congress passed the new “Rear Visibility Standard” in 2008. According to NHTSA data, approximately 300 people are killed and nearly 18,000 injured every year because of back-over accidents. A typical incident involves a child under 5 and occurs in a driveway or parking lot.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an automobile manufacturing lobbyist group, urged the White House Administration to allow manufacturers the option of meeting this visibility standard with larger mirrors, thereby decreasing the cost by nearly 60%. Proponents from the Center for Auto Safety, a consumers group, feel this is a bad idea and that, although mirrors are cheaper, they will not get the job done. This consumers group is lobbying for a video camera system that includes sensors which beep or make other audible warnings to alert drivers to the presence of a person or another vehicle. The government estimates that the video system increased the cost between $159.00-$203.00 per new vehicle. In a vehicle with a built-in GPS screen, the cost would only increase by $58.00 per vehicle.
According to KidsinCars.org, a safety group that strongly supported the passage of the 2008 law, in a majority of back-over accidents in which children were killed, the driver was a family member. Further, approximately 45% of 2012 model year cars have rear-view cameras as standard equipment, and are an option on nearly 23% of other models.
There is no dispute that back-over accidents are preventable. The debate will continue over what is the most cost-effective way to address and further prevent these tragic accidents.