New rules that would make reversing cameras a legal requirement in the US have been kicked into the long grass, as car makers and law makers continue to wrangle over the details of the scheme.
According to US government figures, around 300 Americans are killed each year by cars and trucks backing up, and about a third of the fatalities are children. The horrible irony is that parents often choose a large vehicle to protect their kids in a crash, without realising that the upright stance and high window line of a people carrier or SUV can make it harder to spot a child playing too close to the car.
Reversing cameras, which put a tiny wide-angle lens on the tailgate and a viewscreen on the dashboard, can help a driver to see much more clearly whether it’s safe to move. New regulations were expected to make the feature mandatory for new cars sold in the US from September 2014. After the latest delay – the second since the rules were first mooted in 2007 – the phase-in date is again uncertain and it could potentially slip into 2015 or beyond.
Reportedly, car makers have raised concerns over a number of issues, including the required size and brightness of the viewscreen, and the legality of guidelines superimposed on the image to help drivers park.
Dangerous reversing is not limited to Americans in vast pickup trucks. Research carried out in 2011 by replacement vehicle provider Accident Exchange suggests that in the UK alone, about 500 cars hit something while travelling backwards every day.
In Europe, efforts to reduce the dangers of blind spots behind and to the sides of vehicles have focused on heavy lorries, which have sprouted complex arrays of mirrors as well as reversing cameras in response to EU directives. There hasn’t yet been a similar effort to tackle the blind spots around cars and vans.
Let's hope the US law goes ahead and European rule makers follow suit.