Technology may make backing up safer for drivers and bystanders

Readers of this personal injury blog know what can happen when drivers fail to practice an appropriate standard of care when driving. As today’s story illustrates, that duty of safe driving begins the moment an individual gets behind the wheel — even if he or she has only begun backing up.

In fact, back-over accidents affect a tragically large number of Americans each year, according to data estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In a 2010 report, the NHTSA asserted that drivers hit about 15,000 individuals each year when backing up. An estimated 210 people die from this type of accident.

Given those numbers, a new rule proposal from the NHTSA makes sense. The proposal would require all new light vehicles to have backup cameras that provide a view of a zone 10 by 20 feet behind each vehicle. The technology, officially referred to as rear-view visibility systems, would be required of in all light vehicles by May 1, 2018, although it would start phasing in two years prior. Notably, cars, trucks, vans and even SUVs are considered light vehicles, and thus would be subject to the rule.

As a personal injury attorney knows, jurors may be inclined to presume that a back-over accident occurred because of negligence. Pedestrians, after all, are often legally presumed to have the right-of-way. However, this type of accident may be unique in that its victims may have unknowingly put themselves in danger. Specifically, NHTSA data indicates that almost one-third of the victims hit by back-over accidents are children 5 years of age or younger. For that reason, federal officials may have been motivated to take matters into their own hands and issue the rule proposal.

Source: USA Today, “NHTSA to require backup cameras on all vehicles,” Chris Woodyard, April 1, 2014

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