Backup cameras likely mandated for 2014

The 2013 Ford Mustang offers rear view camera,

The 2013 Ford Mustang offers rear view camera, which is activated when the car is shifted into reverse. A video image is displayed on the navigation screen or on the rearview mirror that gives the driver a clear view behind the vehicle. (Credit: Handout)

USA Today is reporting that the Department of Transportation has delayed ruling on the backup camera mandate. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had expected to finalize the guidelines recently.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood expects to have a final rule on requiring backup cameras in all passenger vehicles by Dec. 31, 2012. "Safety is the number one priority at the Department of Transportation -- and we give especially high priority to the safety of children. While the department has made progress toward a final rule to improve rearward visibility, it has decided that further study and data analysis -- including of a wider range of vehicles and drivers -- is important to ensure the most protective and efficient rule possible," NHTSA said in a statement.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 228 people die and around 17,000 people are injured annually in backover accidents involving cars, trucks and SUVs. What's worse is that nearly half of the fatalities are children. In 2010, NHTSA proposed a rearview camera mandate for all passenger vehicles, and The New York Times is reporting that the agency will send a final version of the plan to Congress on Wednesday.

If passed, automakers would be required to put rearview cameras in all passenger vehicles by 2014. "Adoption of this proposal would significantly reduce fatalities and injuries caused by backover crashes involving children, persons with disabilities, the elderly and other pedestrians," NHTSA said in its proposal.

Though NHTSA is convinced the mandate will go a long way toward protecting pedestrians, it also agrees that the technology will be expensive. In its study, it found that adding a backup camera to a vehicle without an existing visual display screen will probably cost $159 to $203 per vehicle. That number shrinks to between $58 and $88 for vehicles that already use display screens.

The mandate is likely to raise a car's base price, as much of the cost will probably be passed on to consumers. Though it will hit economy cars the hardest, the auto industry in general has been heading down this road for some time. Backup cameras have become more affordable and available in recent years. Honda's redesigned-for-2012 CR-V compact SUV is one recent example. A backup camera is newly standard on even the base trim level; it was previously only available as part of a pricey equipment package.

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