Industry Resistance and Federal Delays Hamper Car Camera Rules

Backing crashes deaths are on the rise in the U.S.

Each year in the United States, approximately 228 people are killed in “backing crashes” – crashes in which a vehicle is traveling in reverse, often striking a pedestrian. Of those, about half are children under age 10. Another 17,000 are injured in such crashes.

Restricted rear visibility is a factor in the vast majority of these crashes. In many vehicles, particularly SUVs and pickups, vehicle design is increasingly resulting in large blind spots directly behind the car.

In 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law a measure passed with strong bipartisan support in Congress that requires car manufacturers to improve rear visibility in order to help prevent such accidents. But after nearly five years, new standards have yet to be issued to auto makers. Ray LaHood, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), has pushed back the deadline to issue new mandates four times, most recently in January, and safety advocates are growing frustrated.

The proposed rules would require expanding the driver’s rear field of view in all new passenger vehicles in the U.S. In the case of many car models, this would mean that rearview video cameras and in-dash video screens would be standard equipment.

In a letter to Congress in February 2012, after the third delay in rule implementation, LaHood said the DOT needed to conduct more “research and data analysis” to “ensure that the final rule is appropriate and the underlying analysis is robust.”

But some suggest that the real sticking point is money. Lawmakers are likely reluctant to place any additional regulatory burden on an auto industry hobbled by a stagnant economy.

According to NHTSA estimates, a mandate requiring rearview cameras on every passenger vehicle would add between $58 and $88 to the price of cars that already have in-dash video screens and $159 to $203 to the price of cars without them.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an auto industry lobbying group, says that the total cost to the car industry would be approximately $2 billion per year. In December 2011, the group made an alternative proposal to government officials: rearview cameras in vehicles with very large blind zones and wide-angle convex mirrors for the rest.

Automakers are increasingly integrating cameras and video screens into their models even without rules requiring them. Edmunds, an automotive research firm, rearview cameras were standard equipment on nearly half of all 2012 models and optional on another 27 percent. According to iSuppli, another research firm, 90 percent of 2012 models had in-dash video displays as standard or optional equipment.

Robert Joyce is a Tampa personal injury attorney at Joyce & Reyes Law Firm. To learn more about the Tampa personal injury lawyer, visit https://www.joyceandreyespa.com/ or call 1.888.771.1529.