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NHTSA Proposes Rule Requiring Rearview Cameras in Vehicles

With the popularity of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and large crossover vehicles, more children are injured and killed because drivers do not see them when backing up these relatively massive automobiles. According to the child safety advocacy group, Kids and Cars, more than 50 child pedestrians are injured each week in the United States due to backup injuries. This is primarily due to larger blind spots in these vehicles. A blind spot is the area directly behind a vehicle that the driver cannot see, even with rearview or side mirrors.

However, rearview cameras and backup warning systems may prevent these injuries. Backup cameras allow drivers to see what is in the blind spot, and warning systems beep loudly to alert drivers of hazards they cannot see. Widely used in luxury cars to assist drivers when parallel parking, these devices are becoming more common in minivans, large SUV's and other vehicles with significant blind spots. However, cameras are standard on fewer than half of 2012 model vehicles sold in the United States.

A rule proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may change this. The rule would require automakers to install rearview cameras in all vehicles sold in the U.S., beginning with 2014 models. The rule was originally inspired by the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007, which required the Secretary of Transportation to issue new safety standards to reduce accidents involving children. Named after a two-year old boy who was accidentally run over by his father, the Act identified backup cameras as a principal method for reducing such injuries. According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, the cameras carry a nominal cost of between $150 and $200 to install in each car. However, automakers are likely to push back, as the total cost could reach $2.7 billion.

In the meantime, automakers are unveiling a number of new safety measures which provide protection in addition to video feeds. Infiniti has introduced a system that automatically brakes if it detects a hazard that the driver does not see while backing up. Cadillac's new virtual bumper will alert drivers of blind spot hazards and keep them apprised of pedestrians and bicyclists approaching from the side.

The NHTSA expects to issue final rule by December 31, 2012.

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