USA TODAY -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a proposed regulation Monday requiring all light vehicles-- including cars, SUVs, trucks and vans -- to have "rear-view visibility systems," in effect, requiring backup cameras.
The rule applies to all vehicles with a gross weight rating up to 10,000 pounds -- from the smallest subcompact to commercial vans. It begins phasing in 10% of vehicles after May 1, 2016 models, 40% a year later and 100% in May 2018.
The rule follows an outcry from consumer groups and families that have been touched by tragedies involving back-over accidents, especially those involving children in parking lots. They had been pushing hard against delays in implementing tougher standards. NHTSA says it has been listening.
"We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of back-over accidents—our children and seniors," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. "As a father, I can only imagine how heart wrenching these types of accidents can be for families, but we hope that today's rule will serve as a significant step toward reducing these tragic accidents."
Under the new rule, all vehicles will have to come equipped with the ability for the driver to see a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. There are also requirements involving image size and other factors that pretty much ensure that rear-view cameras are the only solution that will work.
In a 2010 report, the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 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 is equipped with rear-view systems, which it believes will be by about 2054.
Congress passed a law in 2007 ordering the Transportation Department 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 all light vehicles to be equipped with them by the 2014 model year. Until Monday, however, there have been multiple public comment periods and delays.
To try to break through, a coalition of car-safety advocates and parents sued the Obama administration in September. Two parents who accidentally backed their cars over their kids were the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York, which 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. "This measure will most definitely save lives."
Despite the delay, many automakers, responding to consumer demand, have gotten ahead of the ruling by putting standard or option cameras on all their 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 to $43 to $45 to add the camera to a vehicle that already has an adequate display screen.