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New federal rule requiring rear-view cameras is a boon to vehicle safety

Consumers Union urges automakers to beat 2018 deadline

Published: April 2014

The new federal rule requiring that a rear-view camera be installed in cars and light trucks is a big victory for consumers—and a big step forward for vehicle safety. The final rule, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on March 31 after a long, hard-fought battle, will reduce injuries and save lives, especially among young children.

Each year, more than 200 people are killed and 15,000 injured because a driver backing up doesn’t see them. Most of the deaths are children under 5 or adults over 70, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Significant blind zones—the area behind a vehicle that a person can't see from the driver's seat—can obscure people and obstacles in the road. (Watch our video below.)

Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, helped get a law enacted in 2008 that instructed the Transportation Department to set a national standard for automakers to improve rear visibility by 2011. The law was named for Cameron Gulbransen, who was killed in October 2002 in a backover accident at age 2.
But the rule was delayed repeatedly. We joined with other safety advocates and the families of backover victims in filing a lawsuit to force the Transportation Department to end the delays and implement the rule. The day before the case was scheduled to be heard in court, the rule was finally issued.

Automakers must comply with the rule by May 2018. We're urging the companies to move quickly to beat that deadline. Backup cameras are already available in a wide variety of models in response to consumer demand. Americans clearly want these systems for the safety and convenience they offer, and we think manufacturers should step up and provide them as soon as possible.

The new rule is a testament to the hard work of a lot of people who refused to give up. Greg Gulbransen, Cameron's father, said: “It’s been a long fight, and this rule took too long, but we’re thrilled this day has finally come. Though his own life was short, Cameron inspired a regulation that will save the lives of countless others.”

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.

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