NHTSA Delays Rules for Backup Cameras Until February; Supposed to be Done by 2011

By Jacob Brown | January 03, 2013
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the ability to mandate safety equipment for cars and trucks in the U.S., lest automakers face stiff fines or the possibility of not being allowed to sell their vehicles here. For some time, the NHTSA has said that it plans to mandate the use of backup cameras in new vehicles, giving a timeline that it would have laws in place to mandate them by the end of 2012. As with everything else in Washington, it was dragged out to the last minute. But unlike a notable fiscal cliff, the requirement of a rearview monitor was allowed to slip into 2013 without much of a fight. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood has now pushed back the legislation to February. Originally, the law called for backup cameras to be installed in rearview mirrors; most automakers have some sort of built-in screen now available in every vehicle they offer. Even the $12,500 Chevrolet Spark has a monitor available.
Automakers have kvetched because they might have to eat the cost on the vehicles that don't have infotainment systems, to the tune of $159 to $203 per car, according to their estimates. Cars with built-in monitors would have $58 to $88 added to their bottom lines, which doesn't sound too bad for a five-figure new car. The NHTSA proposed the idea in 2007 for full implementation in February 2011. Final rules and regulations were to be figured out in 2010. None of that has happened. First automakers were told to strengthen roof structures for rollovers. That made roof pillars thicker as a result. Then automakers were told to install backup cameras into their vehicles. Most have them available anyway. According to figures from the NHTSA, 300 people are killed each year by accidents caused by rear visibility issues. Automakers contend that the net benefit of using backup cameras works out to be more than $11 million spent per life saved; rollover standards cost $9.8 million per life. Does the cost outweigh the benefit, and do cameras make sense in tiny vehicles that simply don't need them, like your average Smart or Scion iQ? Let us know in the comments section below. Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)