Equipping drivers with the tools to prevent them from backing over pedestrians, most notably small children and the elderly, is a sound move that will save lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finalized a rule last month requiring all new cars and light trucks to have backup cameras by May 2018. Once the rule takes effect, officials estimate sharp reductions in the 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries that are caused by backup accidents each year.
The agency's new rule comes after a congressional mandate and years of lobbying by child safety advocates and by parents who accidentally backed over their children. It requires rearview cameras to have a standard field of view of 10 feet by 20 feet immediately behind the vehicle. The law also sets standards for camera specifications such as image size and linger time, or how long an image remains on the screen before it disappears.
Safety administration officials estimate that the cameras will cost between $43 and $142 to install per vehicle, a small price to pay to save dozens of lives a year. The new standards are a step in the right direction, but it shouldn't have taken so long. Because of the time it will take for cars manufactured after 2018 to replace older ones already in use, it could be 40 years before the full benefit of the new rule is realized. Until then — and even once the cameras are ubiquitous — vigilant drivers, attentive parents and alert pedestrians and cyclists provide the best protection against backup accidents.