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Backup camera car rule costs $18M per saved life

An employee of Nissan tries to park the

An employee of Nissan tries to park the automaker's Serena equipped with four cameras at the front, the rear, and two rear mirrors of the car while looking at a monitor showing the virtual bird-eye view of the vehicle's position during a press tour at Nissan's Oppama plant in Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo. (Aug. 6, 2007) Credit: AP

A rule that would require backup cameras in new cars sold in the U.S. is being delayed until 2015 as regulators consider giving incentives in their safety ratings to vehicles containing that technology.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who plans to step down once his replacement is confirmed, announced the delay today in a letter to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat.

More analysis of the rule’s cost, which the agency had said would be up to $2.7 billion or as much as $18 million per life saved, is necessary before issuing the mandate, LaHood said in the letter. The agency had previously delayed the rule three times, most recently missing a Dec. 31 deadline.

Automakers have complained about the rule’s cost and that as proposed it would apply to all vehicles, while they say it makes sense only for larger ones.

“Automakers are providing cameras in cars today for greater vision and for new driver assists, and consumers should decide how best to spend their safety dollars on these technologies,” said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “This is a decision for consumers.”

The Washington-based group counts General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. among its members.

Car-Buyer Incentives

The rule was required by a 2008 auto-safety law, signed by President George W. Bush, that was named for a New York boy, Cameron Gulbransen, who died after his father accidentally backed over him.

In a Federal Register notice, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked for comments on whether to include incentives for backup cameras in its New Car Assessment Program. That program, which the agency said earlier this year it’s updating, influences consumer choices in car buying by rating vehicles on safety.

The ratings now give an incentive for cars that have electronic stability control, a technology that was once optional and is now required on new vehicles. Rearview cameras would be substituted for electronic stability control in the ratings system, NHTSA said in the notice.

The rule was one of several regulations that President Barack Obama delayed last year due to their cost in the months before his re-election. Since the December delay, LaHood has said the rule has been under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The deadline for compliance was the 2014 model year when the proposed rule was issued in December 2010. NHTSA has said an average of 292 people — primarily children and the elderly — die each year in backover accidents and half of those deaths could be prevented by requiring cameras.

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