Full implementation of health care reform isn't the only 2014 deadline on the horizon. That's also the year the federal government wants automakers to install backup cameras as standard equipment on all new vehicles, a move strongly backed by the auto insurance industry.
Today, only about 20 percent of new vehicles sport the backup camera safety system, which features a dash-mounted video display that enables motorists to see what's behind them. The system activates an audio warning if it detects an object -- say a child playing or that tethered dog from National Lampoon's "Vacation" -- within the field of view of the camera.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 292 fatalities and 18,000 injuries occur each year as the result of back-over accidents. Children account for 44 percent of the fatalities; the elderly 33 percent.
"There is no more tragic accident than for a parent or caregiver to back out of a garage or driveway and kill or injure an undetected child playing behind the vehicle," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in announcing the plan.
Auto insurance companies are squarely onboard with 20/20 hindsight. In addition to lowering the risk of medical and liability claims, the cameras are expected to reduce the number of parking-lot bumper thumpers and collisions with stationary objects such as light poles and cart corrals.
"With available technology, there is no reason to accept a blind spot of any size," says Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research group funded by the auto insurance industry.
What do you think? Should all vehicles be required to have backup cameras? Would you use such a device? And what do you think the measure will do to vehicle prices and auto insurance rates?
I would welcome your thoughts, as would the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which has given the public until early February to comment on the federal proposal.
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