A five-year old Rearview Camera Law that requires automobile manufacturers to install visibility aids on passenger vehicles is still in limbo. Meanwhile, 228 people, including 110 children, die and 17,000 more suffer injuries every year when vehicles back over them.
Congress passed the rearview camera law in 2008. Advocacy groups began asking for a solution in the 1990s in response to car designs. With higher trunk lines and smaller rearview windows, vehicle designs prevented drivers from seeing directly behind them. The law that was eventually passed is named the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act in honor of a child who was killed when his father backed over him.
The U.S. Department of Transportation, however, has not yet issued new manufacturing guidelines that enforce the review camera law. It would equip cars, trucks, vans and SUVs with a rearview camera and video. The equipment expands drivers’ field of vision so they can see obstacles behind their vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Commission Director Ray LaHood continues to push back the deadline, however. His actions are in response to the auto industry’s request for alternative technology that’s more affordable and just as effective as the cameras. Right now, the deadline is September 2014, but the agency has asked for a two-year extension.
How Much Will the Technology Cost?
In addition to analyzing data, the NHTSA is considering the law’s effect on consumers’ pocketbooks. The cost to install cameras in vehicles that don’t already have dashboard display screens would range from $159 to $203. Vehicles with the screens would cost consumers an additional $58 to $88. Overall, the automobile industry would face a $2 billion cost to implement the review camera law according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
What are Safe Technology Alternatives?
Joan Claybrook, former head of the NHTSA and former Public Citizen president, advocates for alternative technologies since they’re cheaper options for consumers. Instead of fitting all vehicles with a camera, a wide-angle exterior mirror would be placed on most vehicles, and cameras would be placed only on the vehicles with extra-large blind zones.
Are Cameras Currently Available?
While cameras aren’t required yet, 70 percent of all vehicles manufactured in Japan include the camera safety feature. Only 44 percent of the 2012 vehicle models manufactured in the US include cameras while 27 percent of the US models offer cameras as an option. The NHTSA estimates that the review camera technology could prevent 95 accidents and 7,000 injuries annually.