We’ve all experienced car accidents one way or another. From harmless fender benders to life-threatening collisions, we’ve all been there or know someone who has. Backover accidents in particular have not only caused damage to vehicles, but have also resulted in the loss of a child or a loved one.
Data from KidsAndCars.org – an organization dedicated to bringing more awareness to children safety – shows that from 2006 to 2010 about 34 percent of children fatalities under 15 years old were caused by backover accidents.
“For whatever reason people think that if they use their rearview and side view mirrors correctly, that they are able to see what’s behind them, and nothing can be further from the truth,” said President and Founder of KidsAndCars.org, Janette Fennell. “On our website we have posted the consumer report measurement of the blind zones for hundreds of vehicles. Nobody would buy a car if they couldn’t see a car going 20 or 30 feet forward. Backing out should be easier and safer.”
Moreover, the Department of Transportation reports an average of 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries per year due to backover incidents. About 31 percent of children under 5 years die from backover crashes while adults under 70 years of age account for 26 percent. Suffice to say, backover accidents are a major problem.
In 2008, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act was passed with bipartisan support to legalize a standard for rear visibility in vehicles by 2011. The DOT delayed the mandate four times. A press release earlier this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that it “took time on this regulation to ensure that the policy was right and make the rule flexible and achievable.” With this new law in place, most vehicles manufactured on or after May 1, 2018 will be required to come equipped with rear visibility technology.
“We know that mirrors are inadequate, especially for some vehicles like sport utility vehicles that have tremendous blind areas from the back,” said President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Jackie Gillan. “So many young children are being killed in their own driveways and pedestrians are being injured when people are backing up. It’s not that it’s intentional, it’s just that people can’t see behind them and this is a major step forward. This is a huge safety victory.”
According to the NHTSA, the installation of rear facing cameras could save up to 58 to 69 deaths a year. “Rear visibility requirements will save lives, and will save many families from the heartache suffered after these tragic incidents occur,” said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman in a statement. “We’re already recommending this kind of life-saving technology through our NCAP program and encouraging consumers to consider it when buying cars today.”
The ruling will apply to all vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds, except motorcycles. The NHTSA estimates the system will cost roughly $140 per car. Vehicles that already have in-dash displays can expect to have a lower price for the system.
However, advocates are concerned automakers will make rear facing technology available strictly on their newer, pricier models.
“First of all, we want to make sure that everybody knows that they don’t have to buy a new car to enjoy this technology. Any vehicle can be retrofitted with a camera,” said Fennell. “As far as purchasing vehicles, consumers should demand that this rule is in place and they should be able to get that camera standard equipment, and not have to pay extra for it.”
It is also required for the rear facing technology to include a 10- to 20-foot field of view zone directly behind the vehicle. Other regulations found in the final ruling include: image size, response time, durability, as well as deactivation.
“Every year we saw 200 people or more being killed in backovers. Over 1,000 were injured, and these were preventable deaths and injuries,” said Gillan. “We were quite frustrated and there was bipartisan support for getting this rule out. Now that it’s done, we’re very pleased. Maybe the deadline is longer than what we wanted, but we are hopeful that the auto industry will race ahead and try to get this done sooner.”