The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a regulation Monday requiring all vehicles, including trucks and buses, to have rear-view visibility -- in effect, requiring backup cameras.
The rule applies to all vehicles under 10,000 pounds -- from the smallest subcompact to commercial vans.
The rule follows an outcry from consumer groups and families that have been touched by tragedies involving back-over accidents, especially those involving children in parking lots. They had been pushing hard against delays in implementing tougher standards. NHTSA says it has been listening.
"We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of back-over accidents—our children and seniors," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. "As a father, I can only imagine how heart wrenching these types of accidents can be for families, but we hope that today's rule will serve as a significant step toward reducing these tragic accidents."
Under the new rule, all vehicles under 10,000 pounds will have to come equipped with the ability for the driver to see a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. There are also requirements involving image size and other factors that pretty much ensure that rear-view cameras are the only solution that will work.
In a 2010 report, the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that each year 228 people die in light-vehicle backup incidents, with about 44% of them kids under age 5. The second most vulnerable group: adults over age 70.
Congress passed a law in 2007 act ordering the Transportation Department to have a rule in place by 2011 to require cameras or other backup warning devices on all new cars and light trucks. Until Monday, there have been multiple delays.
To try to break through, a coalition of car-safety advocates and parents sued the Obama administration in September. Two parents who accidentally backed their cars over their kids were the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York.
Despite the delay, some automakers are getting ahead of the ruling by putting cameras on all their new models. Many offer cameras as standard or optional equipment even on their smallest, most economical cars.