Rear-facing cameras will be required in most new automobiles and light trucks beginning in 2018 to help prevent drivers from backing over anyone behind their vehicle under a federal rule issued Monday, a day before a court hearing on the issue.
The U.S. Department of Transportation policy imposes "rear visibility standards" on all new vehicles less than 10,000 pounds manufactured as of May 2018. The DOT had said previously rear-mounted cameras were the only viable method of increasing rear visibility.
A federal appeals court in Manhattan was to hear arguments from car-safety advocates, led by two Long Island residents who sued the Obama administration to issue the long-delayed rule.
The two are Dr. Greg Gulbransen, an Oyster Bay pediatrician who backed over his 2-year-old son, Cameron, in 2002, fatally injuring him, and Susan Auriemma of Manhasset, who backed into her 3-year-old daughter in their Manhasset driveway in 2005. The child, Kate, was briefly hospitalized, but not seriously injured.
Gulbransen and Auriemma described their feelings as "bittersweet."
"It's been a long fight, and this rule took too long, but we're thrilled this day has finally come," Gulbransen said in an interview. "I'm glad we could channel our grief into a policy change. That was important."
Auriemma said she was pleased for the families who had lost a child in a backover accident. "I've had the privilege of calling a couple of dozen families today and they're so very happy this has happened."
There are an average of 210 deaths and 15,000 injuries annually from such "backovers," and more than half the victims are children younger than 5 and adults older than 70, according to federal statistics.
The law mandating better rear visibility was called the Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Act and was pushed by the advocacy groups Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway Safety, Consumers Union and KidsAndCar.org.
It was signed into law in 2008 by President George W. Bush. The law required the DOT to draft safety rules within three years, but DOT repeatedly delayed.
The advocates filed a lawsuit this past Sept. 25 in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a writ ordering DOT to issue final rules within 90 days because the postponements constituted "unreasonable delays" under the Administrative Procedure Act.
The new rule, 251 pages long, mandates that a 10-foot-by-20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle be visible to the driver. The system must also meet other requirements including image size, linger time, response time and durability.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, representing most American manufacturers, issued a statement that did not take a position on the rule, but noted that rear-facing cameras were already available on most vehicles, although not always as standard equipment.