Back-up cameras are available on a wide variety of models sold today, especially on utilities and trucks. But a new government safety proposal might make them standard on all models.
The truth is, vehicles are becoming more difficult to see out of and low speed backup accidents are on the rise. Ironically, the addition of safety features, like pillar-mounted airbags and active head restraints, often in conjunction with form-over-function styling, has made outward visibility worse.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says nearly 300 deaths and 18,000 injuries occur each year from vehicles backing over pedestrians. Children under five represent 44% of fatalities, while senior citizens make up another 33%.
Under the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007, named for a young back-over victim, the Department of Transportation must issue regulations to expand the rearward field of view on all light-duty vehicles.
Although NHTSA's proposal doesn't specify the use of rearview cameras, it would require that drivers be able to see directly behind their vehicle with the transmission in reverseâ€”beyond what they can see in rearview and side mirrors.
In testing, parking sensors scored poorly in their ability to detect a child behind a reversing vehicle, so a rearview camera with a screen in the rearview mirror or on the dash is the most likely solution.
10% of new vehicles would have to comply by 2012. A year later that number jumps to 40%. By 2014, every new vehicle will have to comply. The new regulations could add as much as $200 to the price of a new car.
But even if NHTSA gives rearview camera technology its blessing, there's still no substitute for driver alertness and making sure you turn your head around to see where you're going.