NHTSA Accused Of Needlessly Delaying Rearview Camera Rule

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Safety advocates are none too happy with a decision yesterday from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recommend rear-view cameras as a safety feature in all new vehicles.  To the uninitiated, this would seem like a move in the right direction in terms of safety.  However, advocates have been urging the NHTSA to take things much further than a mere recommendation for years, and thus the latest measure is being looked upon as the agency dragging its feet.

The issue is explored in detail in a new report from CNN.  Back in 2008, lawmakers at the federal level passed a law that required the NHTSA and the Department of Transportation to impose regulations related to rearview cameras by 2011.  Two years later, no such law exists.

The delays have been prompted by the NHTSA repeatedly pushing back the deadline by which they were set to take action.  The first proposed rule actually came out toward the end of 2010, plenty of time to meet the deadline set for February of 2011.  But then, the DOT opted to push the deadline back to the end of 2011 and then subsequently to February of last year.

It’s now September of 2013, and that deadline is far in the rearview mirror.  The reasons given for the constant delays are the complexity of the issue and the sheer number of entities that commented on the rule.  The Transportation Secretary says that he still supports regulations related to rearview cameras yet hopes this stopgap measure can boost safety in the interim.

Under this latest decision, visitors to the Safer Car website will be able to see all those automobiles that come with the cameras.  The technology must meet certain benchmarks in order to be listed as having the system under the New Car Assessment Program.

For numerous safety organizations, this simply isn’t good enough, and many have partnered for a lawsuit that was set to be filed against the DOT today.  The coalition responsible for filing that suit includes Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Kids and Cars, Consumers Union, and two parents who were actually involved in accidents related to a vehicle backing into a child.

If the lawsuit proves successful, a ruling on rearview cameras would have to roll out within three months.  The advocacy agencies believe such a measure is necessary in order to reduce fatalities and injuries related to backing up accidents, which they say have been able to continue uninhibited without NHTSA action.  The DOT estimates back-up accidents accounts for over 17,000 injuries and 200 fatalities on a yearly basis.