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U.S. Proposes Requiring Backup Cameras in All New Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said an average of 292 people die each year from back-over accidents. Photographer: Mark Elias/Bloomberg
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said an average of 292 people die each year from back-over accidents. Photographer: Mark Elias/Bloomberg

Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. auto-safety regulators proposed requiring backup cameras on all new vehicles by 2014 to prevent drivers from backing over pedestrians, a rule that may cost as much as $2.7 billion.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which published the proposed rule today, said an average of 292 people die each year from back-over accidents, which primarily kill children and the elderly. To equip a new-vehicle fleet of 16.6 million produced in a year would cost from $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion, the agency said in the proposal. It called the cost “substantial,” and said the measure might reduce back-over deaths and injuries by almost half.

“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,” 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.”

Gentex Corp., which makes camera-based automotive safety systems, may benefit from the rule, said Kevin Tynan, an automotive analyst for Bloomberg LP. Gentex rose $4.06, or 18 percent, to $26.89 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. The gain was the biggest since Oct. 21, 2009, for the Zeeland, Michigan-based company.

Audiovox Corp., which makes mobile video systems, gained 6 cents to $7.15 in Nasdaq trading, rising to its highest price since Sept. 24. Audiovox is based in Hauppauge, New York.

Ford Motor Co. said today it will have rear-view cameras available in almost all Ford and Lincoln models by the end of 2011.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, whose members include U.S. and non-U.S.-based carmakers, said they are reviewing the rule.

Industry Reaction

“Given that our top priority is keeping people, especially children, safe in and around autos, the Alliance looks forward to working with regulators to ensure that, in the end, we have enhancements that saves lives and improve safety,” Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Washington-based alliance, said in an e-mail.

“AIAM supports the establishment of performance-based requirements that provide maximum flexibility to manufacturers in selecting approaches to meet enhanced rear visibility requirements,” Annemarie Pender, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based international group, said in an e-mail. “Our members invest billions of dollars into saving lives by researching, creating and deploying advanced safety features on their vehicles.”

The proposal is a response to a 2007 law mandating regulations to enhance rear-view visibility for drivers. The law was named after Cameron Gulbransen, a 2-year-old from New York who died after his father accidentally backed over him. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland helped write the law when he worked for the Senate Commerce Committee.

Camera Cost

The regulator didn’t specify which kind of technology must be used, while saying in the proposed rule that “the most effective technology option” it evaluated is the rearview video system, which is also the most expensive.

In vehicles without a visual-display screen, rearview video systems cost consumers $159 to $203. For a car with a video screen, such as those used in navigation systems, adding a camera would cost $58 to $88, NHTSA said.

NHTSA estimated about 18,000 people a year are hurt in back-over accidents, with about 3,000 suffering “incapacitating” injuries. The agency said 44 percent of the incidents involve children under age 5.

NHTSA will accept comments on the proposed rule for 60 days. The agency said it plans to publish a final rule by Feb. 28.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at agreilingkea@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernie Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net.

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