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Expert: Rear-view car cameras overdue

Feb. 28, 2012 at 12:36 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- A mandate to put cameras in cars to assist drivers backing up is overdue, the head of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington said.

Referring to the concept of cameras to eliminate blind spots, an announcement about which is expected Wednesday, Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the auto safety watchdog group, said, "This is one thing we can do and should do."

In contrast to the many features added to cars that protect drivers, passengers and the occupants of other cars, Ditlow said, "We haven't done anything else to protect pedestrians."

The New York Times reported Tuesday the National Highway Safety Administration, part of the Department of Transportation, is expected to forward a recommendation for car cameras to Congress Wednesday.

The recommendation will be for all passenger cars to have cameras to assist backing up by 2014. The mandate would cost $160 to $200 per vehicle, the newspaper said.

Government figures show about 228 people die and another 17,000 are injured each year in backover accidents, the Times said. Another watchdog group, KidsAndCars.org, said the death toll includes two children each week, with an additional 50 injured.

Many of the accidents occur in driveways and account for some of the most devastating accidents imaginable: A parent backing into a child.

"In terms of absolute numbers of lives saved, it certainly isn't the highest. But in terms of emotional tragedy … when you have a parent that kills a child in an incident that's utterly avoidable, they don't ever forget it," Ditlow said.

Although a mandate would be new, automakers have already researched the idea, which has been around for a while. Back-up cameras are already standard equipment on about 45 percent of 2012 model year cars and an option on another 23 percent, industry research Web site Edmunds.com said.

An NHTSA spokeswoman would not comment on the recommendation, which has not yet been formally announced.

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