Federal Government Puts Off Decision on Requiring Cars to Have Backup Cameras


512px-Lexus_backup_camera1A pending rule intended to improve the safety of cars and other light vehicles by increasing the driver’s field of vision has been delayed for a second time. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced last month that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) would not have final rules relating to requiring all cars to have backup cameras until at least December 31, 2012. Once enacted, every Connecticut passenger vehicle would need to have a backup camera installed by 2014.

The NHTSA’s rule will require all vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less to have a backup camera installed that allows the driver to see the area immediately behind the vehicle while driving in reverse. This would apply to all passenger cars, vans and minivans, pickup trucks, and other commonly-used vehicles. According to the New York Times, forty-five percent of new cars currently have backup cameras as a standard feature. They are available as an option in another twenty-three percent of new cars. People who own vehicles without cameras will have to purchase equipment. People who own cars without embedded navigation screens will have to spend $159 to $203 dollars on equipment, according to estimates by the NHTSA. For cars with screens, which may be a feature included with GPS devices, the cost is estimated to be $58 to $88. The NHTSA estimates that the annual cost of the program nationwide will be $1.9 to $2.7 billion.

The NHTSA announced its intention to create this rule in December 2010. The agency issued a press release that month stating that vehicle “blind zones” cause an average of 292 deaths each year, as well as 18,000 injuries. Accidents such as these particularly affect children and the elderly. The NHTSA states that 228 fatal accidents, seventy-eight percent of the total, involve vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less.

The backup camera rule originated with a federal law, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007, which was passed in early 2008 and signed into law by President Bush. Cameron Gulbransen was a two year-old accidentally killed when his father backed over him in his vehicle in the family’s driveway. The law requires several vehicular safety improvements designed to protect children, including “blind zone” visibility features. It also requires features that would reverse power windows if the window encountered an obstruction, and a feature that prevents a car’s transmission from switching to “drive” unless someone was simultaneously pressing the brake pedal.