Another day, another requested change by the NHTSA that will cost new car buyers more money. This time, it’s for rear view cameras, which the agency feels may save as many as 292 lives per year, in addition to preventing some 18,000 annual injuries. The agency is wasting no time on implementation; if the proposed regulation passes, ten percent of new cars sold by each manufacturer must be equipped with rear-view cameras by September of 2012, 40% by September 2013 and 100% by September 2014. Rear view cameras are currently offered on luxury cars or on higher-trim versions of more affordable models. If available as an option, the rear view camera systems typically add around $400 to the price of a vehicle.
Even the NHTSA admits that the camera systems are no substitute for situational awareness. In the words of NHTSA administrator David Strickland, “The steps we are taking today will help reduce back-over fatalities and injuries not only to children, but to the elderly, and other pedestrians.. “And while these changes will make a difference, drivers must remember that no technology can, or should, replace full attention and vigilance when backing up. Always know where your children are before you start your car and make sure you check that there is no one behind you before you back up.”
That’s good advice, since a rearview camera system can’t prevent people or pets from walking into your path. I’m all for preventing tragic accidents, but mandating technology that will increase the cost of new cars while only having limited effectiveness doesn’t seem like the best way to do it. At least the NHTSA isn’t proposing yet another warning sticker on the overhead visor.