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Backup camera system in a Toyota Venza crossover

The NHTSA says that nearly 300 children are backed over and killed in the U.S. each year  (Source: rearviewsafety.com)
DoT steps in to help prevent child fatalities from backovers

When it comes to new vehicles today, it seems as though computers are taking over many aspects of the driving experience. We have electronic stability programs, laser/radar cruise control, lane guidance, and automatic parking systems.

On the safety front, it's not uncommon to found vehicles that are loaded with driver/passenger and side/head curtain to protect the occupants inside the vehicle. Some auto manufactures go even further by providing knee and seatbelt airbags.

However, new government regulations could do more to protect people outside the vehicle. According to the Associated Press, the Department of Transportation wants to help protect small children that get backed over by vehicles through the use of cameras and better outward visibility. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), roughly 300 children are killed each year from accidental "backovers". The number injured each year is about 18,000.

Many cars today are being designed with higher beltlines to enhance styling and to perform better in side-impact crash tests. As a result, outward visibility through the side and rear windows is often compromised. Vehicles like SUVs and pickups have an even great disadvantage as they sit higher off the ground often making it harder to see small children when the vehicle is put in reverse.

Many auto manufacturers get around the visibility problems inherent with today's vehicles by incorporating backup cameras that transmit an image of what's behind the vehicle to a dashboard display screen (which is often used for the vehicle's GPS). While the backup camera systems are usually optional on today's vehicles, they would be mandatory in all vehicles (up to 10,000 pounds) by 2014.

Auto manufacturers can get around the requirement by adhering to improved rear visibility requirements handed down by the DoT, but with current car design trending towards making outward visibility an afterthought, it's believed that most car manufacturers will go the backup camera route instead.

"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. "[Changes would] help drivers see into those blind zones directly behind vehicles to make sure it is safe to back up."

Backup cameras will no doubt add to the cost of new vehicles in the years to come -- this is in addition the price increases that are sure to come from more stringent fuel economy requirements being handed down by the government.





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