Federal Rules for Rearview Vehicle Cameras to Prevent Backup Fatalities Delayed Again

In early December 2011, a 53-year-old mother in West Richland, Wash., drove her 9-year-old daughter to a bank with another child so her daughter could deposit her $5 weekly allowance.

But as they each got back into the woman’s large, boxy 2006 Cadillac Escalade SUV, the woman saw the neighbor boy sitting in the backseat and assumed her daughter was sitting in the seat right behind the driver’s seat, according to a story from The Associated Press (AP).

The woman backed up her Escalade, and in the horror that followed, quickly realized that she had accidentally backed over her daughter, Sydnee. The girl, who stood 4-feet-3-inches tall, couldn’t be seen by her mother as the SUV backed up, and the girl was killed.

Every day since that accident, her mother, Judy Neiman, of West Richland, Wash., relives every moment of that day, from the SUV’s doors closing to the “slight bump” she felt as the vehicle ran her daughter over, the story reported.

Incredibly, such accidents are not so uncommon.

This is an example of a rearview back-up camera system as displayed on a video screen on the dashboard of a newer vehicle. Such systems allow drivers to see what is behind them before they back up their vehicles. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/clsgraphics

This is an example of a rearview back-up camera system as displayed on a video screen on the dashboard of a newer vehicle. Such systems allow drivers to see what is behind them before they back up their vehicles. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/clsgraphics

According to government statistics, about 228 people die in the United States annually from similar accidents caused by vehicles that are backing up, including 110 victims who are children age 10 and under, the AP reports. Such accidents leave another 17,000 people injured each year.

A federal law was even passed in 2008 to add vehicle safety systems to new vehicles that would prevent such tragedies, but every year since its implementation has been delayed.

The Cadillac Escalade that carried Neiman and her daughter wasn’t equipped with any back-up rearview video cameras that could have allowed her to see her daughter behind the large SUV before she moved it backward. Such a system wasn’t even available as an option until 2007, reported the AP.  The SUV did have a sensor system that was supposed to be activated and sound an alarm if a person or object were within five feet of the vehicle as it backed up, but the Neiman and the other passenger in the vehicle didn’t hear any such alert.

Now, a year after this mother’s terrible pain, she says that she hopes that by sharing her story that similar tragedies can be avoided and that the federal rules to mandate back-up cameras in vehicles are implemented and used to make vehicles and pedestrians safer.

“They have to do something, because I’ve read about it happening to other people,” Neiman told the AP. “I read about it and I said, ‘I would die if it happens to me,'” Neiman said. “Then it did happen to me.”

The delays in implementing the 2008 law come from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which faced a Feb. 28, 2011, deadline to issue the new guidelines for car manufacturers. Another deadline of Dec. 31, 2012 also just passed without any action by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), according to a story by The Detroit News.

“In a way, it’s a death sentence, and for no good reason,” former Public Citizen president Joan Claybrook, who once directed the federal agency responsible for developing the rules, told the AP.

One of the problems to finally getting the law implemented after years of delays is that it will add money to the price tags of new vehicles, so there is industry and political pushback. The extra cost for the needed equipment, including rearview cameras and in-dash video displays, is about $159 to $203 per vehicle, according to the AP. The law was to have mandated such systems in new vehicles by September 2014, but the auto industry is now saying it needs two more years to comply, the AP stated.

The latest delay in getting the law implemented is the fourth since Congress approved the legislation in 2007, according to The Detroit News.

“NHTSA didn’t explain how long the new delay would last or if [Secretary of Transportation Ray] LaHood is setting a new deadline,” the paper reported. “The proposal remains under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, according to a government website.”

Had the law finally been implemented in 2012, it still would not have saved the life of 9-year-old Sydnee Neiman. But it’s time that such rules are created and automakers are forced to put these kinds of systems into future vehicles to prevent the next such tragedy.

We need to do it soon, in the name of Sydnee and all other victims of these kinds of preventable accidents.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle accident caused by another driver anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

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