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New federal rules to stop vehicle backovers are long overdue

The changes will help prevent injuries and deaths

Published: March 2013

Each year in the U.S., nearly 300 people die and 18,000 are injured because drivers don’t see them while backing up, according to estimates by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In many instance the victims of backovers are children, and the drivers are frequently a parent or another relative. In a typical situation, adults might be backing up in the driveway, and they can’t see the child behind the vehicle.

This area behind the vehicle that you can’t see from the driver’s seat is called a blind zone. Consumer Reports took a look at blind zones last year. Testers measured how far behind a vehicle a traffic cone had to be before the driver could see its top by looking through the rear window. For a five-foot-eight driver, the average blind zone behind a minivan was 15 feet. For large SUVs, the average blind zone was 19 feet.

To reduce deaths and injuries from backovers, Congress passed a law five years ago that told regulators to create rules for automakers to improve rear visibility through better safety designs. Some of the tools and technology under review include rearview cameras and sensors that "buzz" as the vehicle gets closer to an obstruction behind it. At Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, we believe that rearview cameras are a better option than sensors alone. An ideal choice would a combination of the two—a camera system with sensors to prompt your attention to the screen.

The rules were supposed to go into effect two years ago, but the effort is stalled. The government has extended the deadline for the rules several times. It's not clear when the rules will take effect, if ever.

We believe it's high time to end the delays and put rules that address the dangers of blind zones in place, before more people are hurt. We encourage you to sign our petition to urge the government to end the delays and stop the danger of deadly blind zones behind vehicles. You'll find the petition on our website.

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