NHTSA Slowly Working Toward Backup-Camera Law

A federal rule to require backup cameras on light-duty vehicles that began with legislation in 2008 was submitted to the White House in draft form Dec. 25, and may be finalized Jan. 2015.

The ostensible goal of the requirement is to protect children – though backup cameras may prevent all sorts of property damage besides – and it has been delayed at least four times.

The rulemaking process is being overseen by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the law says the rules should have been finalized by Feb. 2011.

According to Automotive News, automakers may opt to install backup cameras on all models or merely redesign mirrors to reduce the likelihood of rear collisions.

Many cars are already equipped with multi-function screens that work as video screens for the technology, and cost to implement it is estimated at $58-$203 according to NHTSA, while promising to save 95 to 112 lives per year.

The actual law that got the ball rolling was signed by president George W. Bush. According to the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, which elaborates on several federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS), the final standards were supposed to have been in place 36 months after it was signed Feb. 28, 2008.

The Obama administration is thus taking the heat from critics, including being sued by Consumers Union in September to force the administration to obey and implement the law.

A notice on the White House database says the 2008 law does not require a backup camera in every car, but rather it can be met with “additional mirrors, sensors, cameras or other technology to expand the driver’s field of view.”

The auto industry has protested the notion of implementing backup cameras in all light-duty vehicles. NHTSA has not said what it will do, but there are indications back-up cameras may not be universally required.

In any event say critics, deliberations do not justify the delay for the proposal slated to be done in 2015.

“When Congress ordered this rule issued in three years, they meant three years, not seven,” said Scott Michelman, an attorney at the group Public Citizen.

Automotive News