Accidents in which a driver backs up and runs over someone are devastating and far too common. Over 200 people a year are killed in this type of car accident and 17,000 people are injured. Nearly half of the victims who die in these accidents are children, most of them under the age of five.
Four years ago, Congress passed legislation intended to reduce the number of these accidents. The law is formally called the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007. It directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to adopt a federal rule that will require vehicles to have greater rear visibility.
Last year, NHTSA proposed a rule that would make back-up cameras mandatory on all new vehicles by 2014. Recently, however, automakers have pushed back against the rule, raising various technical objections.
In response, the safety agency held hearings on the proposed back-up safety standards. The testimony at the hearings included heartbreaking first-hand accounts from a survivor of a back-up accident and the parents of a child who was killed.
Brandy Dahlen, a 30-year-old mother from Birmingham, Alabama, spoke about the loss of her two-year-old daughter, Abigail. Abigail had chased a tennis ball into a neighbor’s driveway. She tripped – making her even less visible – and her 19-year-old neighbor, driving an SUV, backed over her on the way out for pizza.
Abigail’s four-year-old brother was nearby, but could not stop the accident in time. Brandy Dahlen told the NHTSA regulators that her son is torn up by feelings of guilt about not being able to save his sister. He has told his mother he wants to go to Heaven too, to be with his sister.
Dahlen’s testimony challenged the federal regulators to not be swayed by automakers arguments that back-up cameras are too expensive. “In all honesty, what is the value of a human life,” Dahlen said. “It doesn’t matter what the cost is. It’s too late to do the right thing for her. It’s too late to save her. But the rest of America’s children need this.”
A 16-year-old boy who was drastically injured in a back-up accident as a toddler also testified. Patrick Ivison, from San Diego, must use a wheelchair and cannot shower or dress without assistance.
After thousands of hours of therapy and rehabilitation, he has learned to drive. But he made sure to install a $60 back-up camera on his vehicle.
Despite the emotionally touching testimony of victims, the auto industry has expressed various concerns about NHTSA’s back-up cameras proposal. For example, one issue is how long the rear image from the camera should be visible to the driver on a display screen. The other issue is how much the cameras would cost.
When children’s lives are at stake, however, automakers should not quibble about questions like how long the image will display on the screen. The technology is available and it should be used.
As to the cost of the cameras, it is really very small, especially compared to the value of a human life. NHTSA estimates that for vehicles with display screens, the additional cost of a back-up camera would be only $58 to $88. For vehicles without display screens, it could range from $159 to $203.
NHTSA will be taking public comments on the proposed rule until April 18 and finalizing it by the end of the year.
If you have been injured in a back-up accident, or someone in your family has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. An attorney can evaluate your case and explain your legal options.
Call 303-980-5511 or toll free 888-980-5511.