The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is adding rear-view video systems to its list of recommended features under its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). Proposed as a mandate in December 2010 based on the 2008 Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act passed by Congress, NHTSA will recognize vehicles that have a rear-view video system as part of its NCAP program.

To meet the requirement, the rear-view video system must cover the 20-foot by 10-foot zone directly behind the vehicle; be displayed within two seconds after the reverse direction is selected; and be large enough to enable the driver to make judgments about the objects in the image and avoid a crash with those objects, according to NHTSA.

This recommendation to add rear-view cameras to the list of NCAP-recognized safety technologies, however, falls short of a mandate, which is supported by a number of consumer groups. These groups have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York that would force the DOT to issue a rule that declares rear-view video systems as mandatory equipment on late-model vehicles within 90 days. The DOT has pushed back on making these systems mandatory to 2015. The original Safety Act passed in 2008 required “significantly improved rear visibility in new consumer vehicles, by backup cameras or other means” according to the groups filing the lawsuit.

The suit was filed on Sept. 25 by Dr. Greg Gulbransen, Susan Auriemma, the Consumers Union of the United States, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Kids And Cars, Inc., who are represented in this action by Public Citizen. The petition argues that the DOT is taking an unreasonable amount of time to implement this mandate under the Administrative Procedure Act, based on the timetable set by Congress. These groups argue that the DOT has failed to show that Congress’ original deadline of 2011 can’t be met as required by the statute.

Highlighting the seriousness of the issue of backover accidents, Kids And Cars, Inc. stated that each year, more than 200 individuals are killed and 18,000 injured due to this type of collision. In addition, the organization noted that 44 percent of those killed in backover accidents are children under the age of 5 years. Also, each week, 50 children are injured, two fatally, by backover crashes, according to Kids and Cars Inc.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, commenting on the addition of rear-view video systems to the NCAP list of safety technologies, reiterated his commitment to implementing the rule as required by Congress.

"While adding this technology to our list of safety features is important, I remain committed to implementing the rear visibility rule as well," he said.