No matter what new car you drive on your next trip to the United States, it will come with a reverse camera. And now road safety experts in Australia want them to become mandatory here, too.
‘Backup’ cameras will now be mandatory on all new cars built to US specifications after 1 May 2018, Car and Driver magazine reports.
The standardisation is reportedly part of a series of regulations issued in 2014 by the US Department of Transport (DOT).
However, those close to the issue told Car and Driver that efforts to make backup cameras standard began much earlier, when George W. Bush was still President.
“It literally took us 10 years to get them (backup cameras) into the cars,” said Peter Kurdock, Deputy General Counsel with the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety.
The ‘Advocates’ is a group composed of property and casualty insurers as well as consumer advocates. In 2013 Advocates sued the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alleging that the agency had not done enough to standardise backup cameras.
The lawsuit stated: “Assuming DOT does not again delay the rule, the backover rule-making will have taken nearly seven years – more than twice as long as Congress envisioned for the rule-making – at a significant cost in human lives.”
President Bush signed in 2008 a law directing the DOT to ‘revamp’ rear visibility standards by 2011. The DOT reportedly pushed back on the deadline several times, issuing a final rule in January 2015.
According to a NHTSA 2010 study, backover accidents cause an average of 292 deaths and 18,000 injuries in the US per year. About 44 per cent of these deaths are children younger than five years old.
Backup cameras are not mandatory in Australia, but the Managing Director of Driver Safety Australia, Russell White, thinks they should be.
“There is no doubt that we will continue to see the inclusion of more driver aid technology in Australian vehicles,” Mr White said.
“It’s important that new safety systems are introduced to support the driver, reduce the human factor risks and help reduce road trauma overall.
“Tragically, a child is run over in their own driveway on almost a weekly basis in this country. So, it’s highly desirable to have systems that help reduce these blind spots and alert drivers to potential risks when reversing,”
— Car and Driver (@CARandDRIVER) May 3, 2018
How important are standardised safety features in cars?
The automotive industry has seen a strong wave of new safety features in cars recently, with reverse cameras being just the start.
Advanced safety technology such as automated emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot warnings and lane departure warnings were previously only featured on top-spec luxury cars, but have made their way down to economy cars.
Twenty car manufacturers have pledged to make AEB standard by 2022. AEB senses a potential collision with a vehicle in front, and brakes for the driver.
Volvo, Toyota and Mercedes are leading the way in AEB standardisation, with Volvo having made it standard on all vehicles from 2014. Toyota made it standard on all vehicles at the end of 2017. AEB is standard on every Mercedes model except for the G-Class.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the US found that rear-end collisions for cars equipped with AEB were cut by 50 per cent.
As for backup cameras, Mr White said that they should still be used as a complement to driver diligence.
“While many vehicles are now being fitted with reversing cameras and sensors it’s important not to become too over-reliant on them… as a driver it’s important that you remain vigilant and totally aware of your surroundings when reversing any vehicle,” Mr White said.