DETROIT, Sept 25 A group of consumer advocates
sued the U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday for
repeatedly delaying a potentially life-saving rule requiring
backup cameras in new cars sold in the United States.
The rule, originally expected in 2011, would have prevented
hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries from "backover"
crashes, when a pedestrian or a cyclist is struck by a vehicle
moving in reverse, the groups said in a court filing.
A 2008 law signed by President George W. Bush directed the
DOT to revamp rear visibility standards by February 2011. But
the DOT pushed back the deadline several times and now plans to
issue a final rule by January 2015.
"Assuming DOT does not again delay the rule, the backover
rule-making will have taken nearly seven years - more than twice
as long as Congress envisioned for the rule-making - at a
significant cost in human lives," according to the lawsuit.
Separately, U.S. officials said on Tuesday they added rear
view video systems to its list of recommended safety features,
which has historically encouraged automakers and consumers to
consider vehicles equipped with the technology.
"While adding this technology to our list of safety features
is important, I remain committed to implementing the rear
visibility rule as well," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony
Foxx said in a statement.
Backover accidents cause an average of 292 deaths and 18,000
injuries a year, according to a 2010 study conducted by the U.S.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. About 44 percent
of the deaths are children younger than five years old.
If installed in all new U.S. vehicles, backup cameras could
save annually at least 95 lives and prevent more than 7,000
injuries, NHTSA said in the 2010 study.
Requiring these cameras would add between $58 and $203 to
the vehicle's price, or as much as $2.7 billion to equip a fleet
of 16.6 million vehicles. The last time U.S. new light vehicle
sales reached that level was in 2006.
The lawsuit against the DOT is brought by Public Citizen on
behalf of a group that includes Greg Gulbransen, who lobbied for
a change to DOT standards after he accidentally backed into his
son Cameron, who died. The 2008 law is named after Cameron.
The other petitioners are Susan Auriemma, whose daughter
Kate survived a similar accident, the nonprofits Consumers Union
of United States and Kids And Cars, Inc, and Advocates for
Highway and Auto Safety.
(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Philip Barbara)