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
However, new government regulations
could do more to protect people outside the vehicle. According to the
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.