Safety Advocates Sue to Stop Government Foot-Dragging Over Backup Camera Requirement
Each year, more than 200 individuals are killed and 18,000 injured in motor vehicle “backover” crashes. Each week, on average, 50 children are injured, two fatally, by backover crashes. Drivers using all three mirrors cannot see a blind zone several feet high directly behind their vehicles. Forty-four percent of those killed in backover incidents are children under 5 years old. Yet five years has somehow not been sufficient time for the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) to issue a law requiring backup cameras that DOT estimates would prevent 95 to 112 deaths and 7,072 to 8,374 injuries each year.
So on September 24, 2013, safety advocates and two parents who unintentionally hit their children when backing up sued the DOT, asking a court to order the agency to promptly issue a safety rule mandated by Congress in 2008 to set federal standards on vehicles’ rear visibility. The Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act directed DOT to issue a rule requiring significantly improved rear visibility in new consumer vehicles, through backup cameras or other means.
The bill passed the House by voice vote and the Senate unanimously, and President George W. Bush signed it into law. The law required that DOT issue the rule within three years, and permitted the agency to extend the deadline only if it “cannot be met.”
DOT initially issued a proposed rule in December 2010. After several delays, DOT’s projected completion date is now January of 2015, nearly four years after the deadline set by Congress and seven years after the law was passed.
By DOT’s own estimates, its delay past the statutory deadline has so far allowed between 237 and 280 preventable deaths – almost half of which have befallen young children – along with thousands of preventable injuries. By the same estimates, another 118 to 140 people will die in preventable backover crashes before DOT regulates – even assuming that DOT does not extend the date yet again.