NHTSA chief: No deadline to finalize car backup cameras

From The Detroit News: David Shepardson

Detroit News Washington Bureau

June 17, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Washington — National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Strickland says he has no time frame for finalizing delayed rear-visibility rules that would require automakers to install back-up cameras in all new vehicles.

“We want to make sure we get it right,” Strickland said last week after a forum in New York, echoing comments he has made for months on the regulation.

Congress approved legislation in 2007 requiring the government to set rear-visibility rules by early 2011, but Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has repeatedly exercised his power to delay the rule. The department didn’t make its last self-imposed deadline set for Dec. 31, and hasn’t set a new deadline.

The rule is one of 17 significant regulations under review, according to a monthly report from the Transportation Department. Many — including new side-impact test rules and rules ensuring people can hear hybrids and electric vehicles — are behind schedule. In one case — setting new standards for what event data recorders must capture — NHTSA cited a “lack of resources” as the reason for the delay. Additional research or need for agency discussions are cited as reasons for other delays.

“The delays here are pretty significant when you look at it in totality,” said Sean Kane, who heads Safety Research & Strategies, an auto safety firm that often works with plaintiffs’ attorneys. “The agency is fairly far behind.”

But Strickland has defended the agency’s track record, repeatedly emphasizing he wants to get data-driven regulations, rather than meet arbitrary timetables.

Many of the new rules are required by Congress as part of a highway bill approved last July.

One of those behind schedule is a new requirement on improving visibility of agricultural equipment on public roads.

Another delayed rule would require that all new buses have lap/shoulder safety belts for all passengers. NHTSA, which has been debating requiring seat belts on motor coaches since 1977, has said the requirement would take effect three years after a final version is published. The agency won’t require the nation’s current fleet of 29,000 commercial buses to be retrofitted with seat belts.

NHTSA said its seat belt proposal will cost $25 million annually — or about $13,000 per bus — and will save as many as eight lives a year, depending on the rate of seat belt usage A number of notable accidents, including the deaths of seven people in 2007 on a bus carrying the Bluffton (Ohio) University baseball team, led Congress last summer to require NHTSA to upgrade bus safety standards, including mandating safety belts.

Congress also required NHTSA to set new rules for heavy trucks. NHTSA has proposed requiring anti-rollover technology known as electronic stability control on truck tractors and buses to prevent both rollover and loss-of-control crashes. NHTSA required the technology for passenger cars and trucks in 2011.

Rollovers involving heavy vehicles account for 304 traffic deaths and 2,738 injuries annually, NHTSA says. NHTSA says the technology will save as many as 66 lives and prevent up to 1,693 crashes. NHTSA says technology costs would be $55 million to $107 million annually, but cost savings from reducing travel delay and property damage would produce net benefits of $128 million to $372 million.

The final rule was initially expected by the end of November; the report now says the regulation will be finalized by April 2014.

(202) 662-8735



Share This Page