December 1, 2010

Every car accident that results in a death is a tragedy. Imagine, though, being the father of the 2-year-old who gave his name to a safety bill. This man went out late one night to turn his vehicle around — it would be safer when he left in the morning if he didn’t have to back up while kids were nearby. His life changed completely in the few seconds that followed: He backed up, and his headlights illuminated a horrific sight. He had backed over and killed his son.

The story inspired a bill, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, that was signed into law in 2008. A rule proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will address one key provision of the law: to eliminate blind zones behind vehicles.

According to NHTSA research, 300 people are killed in back-over accidents each year, and another 18,000 are injured. Children under the age of 5 account for about half of the deaths, and people over 70 make up a third. Other organizations estimate that every week back-overs injure 50 children, and two die of their injuries.

Not surprisingly, most of the accidents occur in driveways or parking lots. But the most heart-wrenching statistic of all is that the driver in 70 percent of these accidents is a direct relative.

While the proposed regulation does not specifically name rearview cameras, the requirement to eliminate the blind zone can really only be addressed with such a system. Carmakers support the new rule, but some have expressed concerns over the cost involved.

They are not without data to work from. About 20 percent of all 2010 passenger cars, SUVs, minivans, pickup trucks and other vehicles weighing up to 10,000 pounds — the vehicles covered by the rule — are equipped with rearview cameras. And, in an effort to keep costs manageable, the requirement will be phased in over the next few model years. By 2014, all vehicles must be in compliance.

Overall cost estimates are $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion. The per-vehicle cost works out to about $200.

Source: Independent Tribune (N.C.) “New Rule Proposed to Prevent ‘Back-Overs’” 12/15/10

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