Rear-view cameras might become standard on all future cars and trucks

Rear-view, or backup cameras are set to become standard equipment in all future cars and trucks under rules proposed by the U.S. government last week to address concerns about drivers unintentionally backing over children.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated the systems – a rear video camera and interior display – would add about $200 to the cost of a vehicle. To equip a U.S. new-vehicle fleet of 16.6 million produced in a year would cost from $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion.

It is estimated, every year, nearly 300 people are killed and 18,000 more are injured when someone— often a parent or grandparent — backs over them. Nearly half of these deaths are young children under the age of five.

“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,” U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “The changes we are proposing today will help drivers see into those blind zones directly behind vehicles to make sure it is safe to back up.”

The U.S. transportation agency estimated that the requirements annually could save 95 to 112 lives and prevent more than 7,000 injuries. In about 70 percent of the cases, a family member is responsible for the death, said Janette Fennell, president of Kids and Cars, a Kansas-based safety group.

The proposed rule would require an area 20 feet to the rear and 10 feet wide to be visible to the driver. It was required by Congress in a 2007 law named for a toddler killed when his father accidentally backed his SUV over him in the family’s driveway.

To meet the new standards, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes automobile manufacturers will install rear mounted video cameras and in-vehicle displays. Other solutions, such as mirrors or various sensors, have demonstrated very limited effectiveness and would not adequately address the safety problem or meet the U.S. Congress’ mandate to improve safety.

Backup cameras are mostly optional today and about 20 percent of 2010 vehicles have them, the Associated Press reports. The proposed rule, which would become final after a required 60-day public comment period, would have to be met by 10 percent of 2012 new vehicles up to 10,000 lbs. gross weight, 40 percent of 2013 models and all 2014s. The agency said it plans to publish a final rule by Feb. 28.

Automakers said they were reviewing the proposal but were supportive of efforts to keep children safe.