The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a proposed rule Monday requiring all new light vehicles — including cars, SUVs, trucks and vans — to have "rear-view visibility systems," in effect, requiring backup cameras.
The rule -- which would be final in 60 days -- would start phasing in on May 1, 2016 models and be at 100% May 1, 2018.
The rule follows an outcry from consumer groups and by families touched by tragic back-over accidents, especially those involving children. They have pushed hard against more delays in the rule.
"We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of back-over accidents — our children and seniors," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
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Under the rule, all vehicles would have to give the driver a view 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. There are also requirements for image size and other factors that all but require rear-view cameras as the only solution that complies.
In a 2010 report, the DOT's NHTSA said that each year 210 people die and 15,000 are injured in light-vehicle backup incidents, with about 31% of the deaths among kids under age 5 and 26% adults over 70.
NHTSA estimates that 58 to 69 lives will be saved each year (not including injuries prevented) once the entire on-road vehicle fleet has rear-view systems, which it believes will be by about 2054.
Congress passed a law ordering the DOT to have a rule in place by 2011 to require cameras or other backup warning devices on all new cars and light trucks. The original goal was for them to be required on all light vehicles by the 2014 model year. Until Monday, however, there have been multiple delays over the details.
To try to break through, a coalition of car-safety advocates and parents sued the Obama administration in September. Two parents who accidentally backed over children were the lead plaintiffs. The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York was scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday.
Advocates expressed relief that the regulation had finally been issued. "It's about time the motoring public will finally be able to see what's behind their vehicle while backing up," says Janette Fennell, president of KidsAndCars.org, in a statement.
Many automakers, responding to consumer demand, have gotten ahead of the regulation by putting standard or optional cameras on new models as they are redesigned, even on their smallest, most economical cars.
NHTSA estimates that 73% of light vehicles already voluntarily will have rear-view cameras by the final deadline of 2018 and that the cost per vehicle to equip the remainder will be $132 to $142 for a complete system, $43 to $45 to add the camera to a vehicle that already has an adequate display screen.