Groups working for automobile safety are asking the federal government to require rear-view cameras on new model cars, a move they say will save lives. More than 300 people die each year in accidents that involve a car backing up.
A major part of the problem is the “blind spot.” As trucks, SUVs and vans are made larger and taller, this “spot” has grown to a zone that can be as deep as 50 feet. To dramatize the potentially deadly effect of a blind spot this large, the organization KidsAndCars.org recently showed that 62 toddlers could simultaneously fit within the blind spot of one SUV.
Consumer Reports produces a rating of rear blind zones on vehicles. Pickups, vans and SUVs consistently score the worst. The Chevrolet Avalanche, with a 5’1” tall driver behind the wheel, topped the charts with a blind zone 50 feet deep. With a rear-view camera, advocates say, the blind zone would be reduced to zero.
Of course, backup cameras cannot turn unsafe drivers into safe ones, but there is no question that the lack of visibility when backing up creates a potentially dangerous problem for even the most cautious of drivers.
Rear-view camera advocates are questioning why the government has been slow to require them.
Mandatory backup cameras were first proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2010, to be effective for 2014 model cars. Safety regulators were acting on a 2008 mandate from Congress to improve visibility. Since then, the rules have been delayed three times. Transportation officials say that more time is needed for analysis and research. The rule will be revisited in December of this year.
That’s not soon enough for camera advocates, who say that the lives of children hang in the balance.
The automobile industry denies requesting the delay in requiring cameras, but says that more research is needed into alternatives such as larger rear-view mirrors. Wade Newton, a spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry lobbying organization, said that larger mirrors might actually be safer, as they would perform better in low-light conditions.
Janette Fennell, of the KidsAndCars.org group, countered that large mirrors may obstruct the forward view, thus compounding an already dangerous condition
Safety advocates and the automobile industry will have their eyes on the NHTSA in December, when the proposed rules will be revisited.