Worth the cost
Children are struck by vehicles backing up about 50 times every week and many of them die or suffer severe injuries - tragedies that are all the more so because most are preventable.
Last week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a rule requiring the use of readily available technology to help prevent crashes while cars are in reverse. By 2018, the NHTSA ordered, all new vehicles lighter than 10,000 pounds must be equipped with rear-view cameras with a field of view at least 10 feet wide and 20 feet deep.
The rule was authorized by Congress in 2007 in the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, which President George W. Bush signed in 2008. The law is named for a 2-year-old who was killed when his father accidentally hit him while parking the family SUV.
Regulators announced the new rule just a day before a federal court was scheduled to hear a case brought against the NHTSA by child safety advocates who objected to the long delay between the law's passage and the lack of a regulation.
Critics complained about the cost of the rule, estimated to be between $700 million to $1.6 billion. But the NHTSA analysis accompanying the rule found that a rear-view camera would cost just an additional $43 to $45 on a vehicle already equipped with a video display, and $132 to $142 for a vehicle without one.
Consumers don't mind. Just under half of all cars sold in the United States last year had rear-view cameras, and the NHTSA projected that by 2018, about 73 percent of new vehicles would include the devices even without the rule.
According to the NHTSA analysis, the mandatory systems will result in preventing about half of the incidents and resulting fatalities and injuries. Back-up crashes, the NHTSA said, kill 200 people each year and injure 14,000.
The NHTSA is not allowed to consider emotional costs relative to its regulations, but a spokesman noted the obvious in announcing the rule: that the value of preventing so many incidents in which a child is injured or killed by a car driven by another family member is obvious.