Backup Camera

Backup camera in a 2012 Lexus.

The U.S. has once again delayed a rule requiring backup cameras in all new vehicles. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said on Tuesday that the final standards on the law will be published by December 31, 2012. He had previously said the final standards were to be published by Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

Chris Woodyard, Fred Meier, and James R. Healey wrote on USA TODAY’s blog DriveOn:

A 2007 law requiring the DOT to set rules to improve the ability to see pedestrians behind vehicles had set Feb. 28, 2011, as the deadline for regulations, but allowed the secretary to delay it. Safety regulators proposed a rule in December 2011, but LaHood put off the deadline citing, ‘the complexity and volume of issues identified in the public comments on our proposed rule.’

LaHood said in a February 28, 2012, letter that “further research and data analysis is important to ensure the most protective and efficient rule possible, including a wider range of vehicles and drivers.” News reports say one area that needs to be resolved is how long it will take for a rear view camera’s image to appear once a driver shifts into reverse. Car makers would prefer the camera to take three seconds, to allow time for cameras integrated with infotainment systems to “boot up,” as USA TODAY reports, whereas regulators want the image to appear within one second.

As Nick Bunkley writes in The New York Times, a law requiring rear view cameras in all new vehicles would protect children and other pedestrians from being hit by vehicles when drivers back up and do not see them. The government says that about 228 deaths are caused each year by such accidents, and that a camera that eliminates the rear blind spot could reduce that number by about half.

A rear view camera is standard equipment on 45% of cars and trucks in 2012, according to The Times. USA TODAY writes: “If getting a final rule takes until December, it could delay the 2014 goal for cameras in all vehicles, because 2014 models could begin to hit the market in January of 2013, or just days after the Dec. 31 deadline.” says that the delay of the law could cost 100 additional deaths, writes Jim Avila on

The surprisingly terrible statistics are that 50 children a week are backed over by a moving vehicle, resulting in two deaths, with the majority of fatalities being toddlers one to two years of age.

Sixty percent of these tragedies happen in larger vehicles, which have larger blind zones — the area behind the vehicle that cannot be seen. The blind spot for a pickup truck is 30 feet, while the average SUV or minivan has a blind zone of 15 feet and a family sedan has a blind zone 12 feet deep.

Fixing this problem would cost $200 a vehicle, $2.7 billion overall, according to Bloomberg. That is $18.5 million for every life saved, a cost-benefit ratio advocates say they hope is not too steep for government regulators.

You can see a video of a 2012 car’s backup camera in action here:

Image by Lexus, used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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