DOT issues long-delayed rearview camera rule

The Obama administration moved Monday to require all vehicles to come equipped with better rearview technology, clearing one of the oldest items from government’s list of pending regulations.

Beginning in May of 2018, automakers will be required to install rearview cameras or similar technology in all new vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds. The action is aimed at backover accidents, which kill hundreds of people annually.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of backover accidents — our children and seniors,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a written statement.

There are, on average, 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries every year linked to backover accidents. More than half of the deaths — 57 percent — involve people younger than five or older than 70, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safety advocates heralded the action but lamented the toll due to years of delay, which prompted a lawsuit against the government. The final rule comes one day before a federal court was scheduled to take consideration of a lawsuit challenging the delays.

Lawyers from the group Public Citizen had been slated to argue the case on behalf of advocates and the parents of backover victims. 

“While the administration delayed the rule, more children died in backover accidents,” Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said. “The cost of regulatory delay, in human lives, could hardly be more clear than it is today. It’s absurd that the government had to be sued before it would comply with the law.”

By law, the department was supposed to issue the regulations in 2011. After numerous delays, the Transportation Department pulled back last year, claiming it needed until 2015 to conduct further analysis.

In the meantime, some automakers have begun installing cameras voluntarily.

Under the rule, any vehicle below the 10,000-pound weight threshold must have rear visibility technology that expands the field of a driver’s view to include a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle.

The regulation also sets requirements including image size, linger time, response time, durability and deactivation.