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Safety Technology Crucial to Saving Children’s Lives Finally Mandatory

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Biking in the driveway

Biking in the driveway (Photo credit: quinn.anya)

Accidentally harming their children is many parents’ worst nightmare. One night in October 2002, Greg Gulbransen, a loving father and pediatrician, checked on his sleeping, two-year-old son Cameron after returning from an evening out with his wife. He then went to move the family’s SUV into their driveway. As he backed in, he felt a small bump with the front wheel. When he jumped out of the vehicle, he found the most devastating scene of his life: his son lying down with his blanket in his hand while bleeding profusely from his head. The boy had followed his father out to the car. Had Greg’s SUV come equipped with a backup camera, he may have seen him.

Since the tragic accident, Greg and other parents who’ve suffered similar fates have campaigned to have the government require all automakers to install this crucial safety technology in their vehicles. Despite passing the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act in 2008, which required the Department of Transportation to issue a standard for rear visibility to car manufacturers by 2011, the DOT and its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration failed to act until now. After filing four extensions and facing a lawsuit for its delayed action, the DOT and the NHTSA announced yesterday that backup cameras must be standard equipment in all vehicles under 10,000 pounds built in and after May 2018.

While advocates of rear visibility technology-which could potentially prevent the 210 deaths and 15,000 injuries suffered in backup accidents every year-welcome the mandate, they are critical of the DOT and the NHTSA for waiting so long to act.

Joan Claybrook, the former head of the NHTSA and president emeritus of the consumer advocate group Public Citizen, told the Los Angeles Times that automakers, already offering the cameras as an option at a considerable price to customers, may have been against the rule because it would diminish their revenues.

The NHTSA attributed the delay to a desire to ensure the “policy was right and…the rule flexible and achievable.” While this may be the case, the delay does not look good for the agency, which is already receiving scrutiny from the government and safety advocates for failing to act after receiving information about GM’s faulty ignition switches, now linked to 13 deaths, in 2007. GM reportedly knew about the problem as early as 2001 and waited to issue a recall until last February.

What do you think? Has the NHTSA favored the interests of carmakers over the safety of consumers?

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