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US DOT wants to eliminate rear-view blind spot in motor vehicles

Posted by on December 3rd, 2010 at 11:58 am

The rules would mandate that people in
cars and trucks can see behind them
when backing up.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The US Department of Transportation wants to create a new safety regulation to help eliminate blind spots behind motor vehicles. The DOT says the proposal is aimed at preventing fatalities and injuries to people victimized by “low-speed back-up accidents” and it could also have an impact on people riding bicycles as well.

The proposal, issued today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “would expand the required field of view for all passenger cars, pickup trucks, minivans, buses and low-speed vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of up to 10,000 pounds so that drivers can see directly behind the vehicle when the vehicle’s transmission is in reverse.”

NHTSA estimates that an average of 292 fatalities and 18,000 injuries occur each year as a result of back-overs.

I was not aware of how many kids are killed each year by people in cars accidently backing up over them in driveways. US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood shared on his blog today that two kids lose their lives every week from “back-overs”. (Check this article: Hidden danger in Suburbia: Driveway backovers.)

NHTSA estimates that an average of 292 fatalities and 18,000 injuries occur each year as a result of back-overs.

“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,” says LaHood.

To meet the requirements of the proposed rule, ten percent of new vehicles must comply by Sept. 2012, 40 percent by Sept. 2013 and 100 percent by Sept. 2014. NHTSA hopes automakers will install rear-mounted video cameras and in-vehicle displays to meet the proposed standards.

There’s a 60-day comment period that is now open. Learn more and submit a comment at NHTSA.gov.

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Jonathan
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Jonathan

Another good reason to back into spaces and driveways, instead of backing out.

jim
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jim

Most traffic fatalities happen right there in the driveway or in front of the house

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“…when the vehicle’s transmission is in reverse.”

I wish we could add, “when the vehicle’s turn signals are activated.”

Oh, wait, that would still require drivers to use turn signals. Rats.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

so now people will rely more and more on rear cameras instead of learning to look where they’re going…

we need more education and compliance, not more technology…

how about all those forward moving accidents? you know, the tens of thousands every year? let’s work on those…

remove the safety devices and force people to drive safer instead…

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

Haven’t had a chance to read up on this yet, but I’m initially skeptical that this is the most efficient expenditure of resources in terms of the safety benefit that might be provided.

Of course, there isn’t a direct cost to taxpayers, but the additional cost for manufacturers gets passed on to the consumer. But with the way things are going, I guess soon every car being made will have a display screen anyway, so maybe the expense is relatively insignificant. Still, I wonder if there are better design features to require on vehicles at little to no cost.

It also seems odd that they’re thinking about blind spots in vehicles under 10,000 lbs GVW, when there are so many crashes due to the blind spots of large trucks, buses and other vehicles that are well over the 10,000 GVW threshold where this regulation will be applied. Why not require blind spot cameras for semis too?

JAT in Seattle
Guest
JAT in Seattle

These much-publicized driveway deaths are tragic, of course – I can’t imagine the hurt and shame of running over your own kid. But this is a legislative and technological attempt to combat basic carelessness. If Americans can’t take the time to confirm that their toddlers aren’t behind their minivans and SUVs why should we think they’ll check the screen?

Skid
Guest

These cameras are already starting to make thier appearance in some vehicles, and large recreational vehicles (campers) have had them for 10-15 years.

Lance P.
Guest
Lance P.

This is a big issue. My nephew was backed over by his mother when he was only 3. While he lived through the ordeal, it caused major brain trauma which he will live with for the rest of his life. The fact that auto companies have known of these issues for decades shows how much they care. Money is the only thing that talks… I’m sure the auto industry will fight this tooth and nail.

KWW
Guest
KWW

While I am not discounting the problem, I question why don’t all cars have audible beeping sounds like trucks do when they reverse?

The technology to do that is here and available and would inform at least 95% of the population that do not have hearing problems.

Lance P.
Guest
Lance P.

TO KWW:
All that ‘beeping’ does is move the blame from the auto driver to the victim. It is the responsibility of the driver NOT the victims to control their actions. Also, for someone who lives in an urban environment can tell you, it is bad enough to have trucks make those sounds. Magnify that by 50 and that is what you get. Also, statistics show that these incidences most often occur to young children, which will not necessarily understand what the ‘beeping’ means.

Karl Probst
Guest
Karl Probst

Technology breaks. So five years down the road my rear view camera doesn’t work anymore. Who is going to ensure that it’s still working.

States regulate vehicle inspection and most have no annual safety inspection as it is.

And what about dirt covering the lens?

Also, are the cameras going to also provide a view of what is directly behind the car on the ground? An infant crawling behind a vehicle can be close enough to the vehicle and low enough that the back up camera wouldn’t show them anyway.

Technology isn’t going to solve this problem.

Anne Hawley
Guest

Rear-facing cameras and viewscreens are available now–my friend has one in her mid-sized Nissan SUV, and it’s wonderful! No amount of careful looking over one’s shoulder can give the driver a view of what’s obscured by the vehicle itself. Pets, children, obstacles, rear clearance to other cars, all are clearly in view when the transmission is in reverse.

I’m not sure why people take issue with new safety technologies that make one of the most unsafe activities in the world a bit safer.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Why not just require a convex mirror on the rear driver’s side such as I see on mail trucks? That has to be cheaper–oh, yeah, but it’s not as cool. I have to admit that as cool as rear-view cameras are, and as much of an enhancement to safety as they may be, I feel a little bit like if a vehicle is too big for you to operate safely, it’s too big for you. Same goes if your vehicle is too big to park correctly…

oliver
Guest
oliver

How about people get less lazy, more aware, and more responsible (liable), and drive vehicles of a more appropriate size for intended use than force me to pay for expensive hardware/software that I don’t need.

Opus the Poet
Guest

The issue here is not bad drivers, it’s addressing a basic design flaw that makes objects below the driver’s line of sight invisible no matter how hard a driver looks. After all if there is a car in the way of where your looking, even if it’s your own car, you are not going to see what’s there. Some vehicles have a blind spot that extends more than 120 feet behind the vehicle (high, small rear window on a tall vehicle with the driver far forward from the back, think of a minivan with a high beltline). Now you don’t have to drive a bubble to be able to see what is around you.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Two barely releated tangential points:
• If vehicles are required to have these at some point the hacking of them to play video & YouTube will shortly follow. As of now it’s a simple matter for the police to heavily scrutinize ANYONE with a TV screen where the driver can view it.
• This whole “sight line/blind spot” line of conversation brings up a big safety plus of bicycles over cars that is often over looked: we can see everywhere.

Sean G
Guest

Maybe I’m missing something here, but the “blind spot” I run into most often (either as a driver, bicyclist, or pedestrian) is that which extends outward over the rear tires of the car. This improvement sounds like it will come in handy when you’re backing up, sure, but on the road the views over the shoulder of the person in the drivers seat are still going to be compromised.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

What would maybe be better is is an ultrasonic or very short range radar device alerting the driver to STOP! immediately. It could I suppose be linked to a camera and screen so that the screen would light up immediately if anything was within whatever range is deciced.

That said, as a pilot, I know that the more “safe” and automated things get in order to eliminate “human error”, the more casual the operation of complex and dangerous machinery becomes. Just ask the piolts of (NWA) flight 188 who overflew their destination by 150 miles. How could this possibly happen? The pilots had all kinds of reasons, except the probability that they were dozing off for lack of having anything to do.
People will find a way to f*%k things up no matter the technology.

Greg
Guest
Greg

Many commenters here seem to be missing the point of the proposed technology…

Say it’s broad daylight. You want to drive your car, and you need to back out of the space it’s in. Being conscientious, you walk around your car, verifying no one is near the vehicle. You get in, buckle up, start the engine and put the car in reverse and check your mirrors. At this point, you just spent 5 seconds not being omnisciently aware of your surroundings and there is a significant swath behind your car that you simply cannot see. You would not be able to see a child or a pet behind the rear bumper of the car.

I’ve driven a number of cars recently with rear video cameras, and they provide a clear view of what a driver wouldn’t otherwise see. The best one was a Toyota Tacoma pickup which puts the video feed into the rearview mirror, especially helpful given the limited usefulness of the mirror in a pickup.

was carless in pdx
Guest
was carless in pdx

My parents already have this on their car. Its amazing, you can see everything from 2 inches away to 30 feet. Unfortunately, the screen is only about 4 inches wide.

Chris
Guest

The scariest moment of my childhood happened to me when I was about 9-years old. I was on my bike crossing the street, and I had to stop to lift my front wheel over the curb. I was right behind a utility van that never saw me, and the driver put the van in reverse. The van knocked me on the ground, and I was pinned underneath my bike, and his bumper, and he kept backing up. I remember hitting the bumper with my hands as the van kept backing over me. Then, as soon as he had clearance, he put the van in drive, and took off, never knowing what had happened. Every so often I play that reel in my head (like now!), and I feel fortunate that I never got crushed.

mello yello
Guest
mello yello

These systems, after-market or OEM, are relatively cheap. It’s just a cmos camera — possibly with infrared night vision — and a small LCD display screen. I don’t see why more people don’t do it. Driving around in reverse while only using the camera is not its intended purpose.

jim
Guest
jim

It seems like whenever I am at the store on a dark rainy night and it is hard to see backing out of a parking spot that people do walk right behind me. I guess it’s kind of like they are oblious that you are having a hard time seeing, and also since they are not face to face with you then manners can be ignored. I would back into those spots except I need to be able to load things into the back of my car. I think at school parking lots the staff should back into the spots for safety of the kids walking/ biking through the parking lots. If you check- teachers seldom do that. Perhaps they have stuff in the trunk, or are just not thinking? I remember at a beach in Edmunds Wash. the police are very strict, they prohibit backing into a parking spot and ticket you for doing so. I think the cost of this new feature should be low, it should save many accidents, ins. companies should be exstatic.

whyat
Guest
whyat

This is cheap technology that will save lives today. Why people would be opposed to this is beyond me. Should mirrors, turn signals, and seat-belts be removed from cars to keep drivers “extra” attentive? I never thought I would utter this in a public forum, but let’s think about the children 🙂

Max
Guest
Max

What about the Type IV MAX trains who have cameras only, no mirrors, and they often fog up resulting in ZERO visibility?

Are we going to end up in a situation where cars have camera visibility most of the time, but no visibility (and no mirror) sometimes?

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood shared on his blog today that two kids lose their lives every week from “back-overs”.

Something I would be interested in is historical rates of “back-overs”. Were 10 kids per week being backed over in the 1950s? How about the 1920s? It would be interesting to see a graph of “back-over” death rates over the last century. Did rates decline and then go back up? Have they been steadily declining? Steadily increasing? How did we ever survive without backup cameras?

Jonathan Gordon
Guest
Jonathan Gordon

But this is a legislative and technological attempt to combat basic carelessness.

How about people get less lazy, more aware, and more responsible (liable), and drive vehicles of a more appropriate size for intended use than force me to pay for expensive hardware/software that I don’t need.

we need more education and compliance, not more technology…

The problem: 292 deaths, 18,000 injuries a year, caused by back-overs. The ‘proposal is aimed at preventing fatalities and injuries to people victimized by “low-speed back-up accidents” and it could also have an impact on people riding bicycles as well.’

To the naysayers, it seems to me you are either a) suggesting that we keep trying the same old thing that’s not working (driver education) or b) that the added minimal costs are not worth it.

To me, this seems like a no-brainer. Using technology to solve a heretofore intractable problem (mirrors can’t see right behind vehicles) relatively cheaply. Everybody wins. Great! And yet some people would rather complain about “basic carelessness.” People are dying! And getting hurt! Lots of em, even. Yes, if all people were perfect, that would happen less. But people aren’t perfect. Here’s a road-tested solution that addresses how people really do behave, not how they ought to, with proven results. What more could you ask for?