Federal government to require rear cameras by 2018

Backing up while driving can be a nervous experience, even though it's something most of us do many times a day. It is no surprise, then, that backup crashes are a significant problem. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that more than 200 people are killed and another 17,000 injured in accidents resulting from a vehicle backing over an unseen object.

Recognizing this, Congress passed a law in 2008 that directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration write new regulations to address this problem. The original deadline was 2011. The NHTSA proposed the camera requirement in December 2010, with the goal of enacting it by February 2011. However, the deadline was extended twice to December 2011 and February 2012, neither of which were met.

Finally, a group of safety advocates sued the federal government, asking a judge to order the NHTSA to finalize the proposed regulation. The rule would have phased in the requirement: 10 percent of new cars would have to have backup cameras by September 2012, 40 percent a year later, and 100 percent by September 2014. As CNN Money reports, the rule as it was finalized will require full compliance by 2018.

The NHTSA estimates that the cameras will save 59 to 69 lives per year. Forty-four percent of all fatalities in backup accidents are children, and the driver is usually a parent or other relative. The other most vulnerable group is seniors, who account for 33 percent of fatalities in backup accident cases.

Of course, any such regulation is not without financial cost. The NHTSA estimates that the requirement will add $159 to $203 to the cost of most cars, and $88 to $158 to the cost of those cars that already have a display screen for navigation systems and the like. Earlier on, there was discussion of a cheaper alternative: a system that makes sound if it detects an object behind the car as it is backing up. However, the NHTSA's testing showed that these systems are less effective than actual cameras.

The automobile industry welcomed the new rule. As quoted by CNN, the Auto Alliance (a trade group of the largest 12 auto manufacturers) said in a statement: "[T]he government has stepped forward as a strong advocate for cameras on cars, and this action helps pave the way for using cameras in other ways on vehicles." The group says it plans to ask that car makers be allowed to replace side mirrors with cameras, which it says would "expand side vision while increasing fuel efficiency."

No safety regulation or device can serve as a substitute for having an attentive driver at the wheel. This unfortunately is not always the case. If you find yourself injured due to someone else's negligence, you should contact an attorney experienced in personal injury law as soon as possible to ensure your rights are protected.