NHTSA Announces Backup Camera Rule

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced today that it will require all light-duty vehicles sold in the U.S. to have a backup camera as standard equipment by May 2018.

The ruling comes after NHTSA mulled requiring backup cameras for several years, and after a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety confirmed such cameras drastically improve driver vision. In its ruling, NHTSA says it expects the addition of backup cameras to save 58 to 69 lives per year; currently, the agency says 210 people are killed each year and 15,000 are injured during “backover” accidents.

“Rear visibility requirements will save lives, and will save many families from the heartache suffered after these tragic incidents occur,” NHTSA acting administrator David Friedman said in a statement.

NHTSA’s rule doesn’t specifically require automakers to add cameras, but does specify a specific area behind the vehicle that must be visible to the driver. NHTSA, “anticipates that, in the near term, vehicle manufacturers will use rearview video systems and in-vehicle visual displays to meet the requirements of this final rule.”

The requirement for backup cameras will be phased in over several years. Automakers are required to meet the visibility rule on 10 percent of their new vehicles built between May 1, 2017 and May 1, 2017; on 40 percent of vehicles built between May 1, 2017 and May 1, 2018; and on 100 percent of vehicles built after May 1, 2018. The rule does exclude “small volume” manufacturers, which could potentially give certain exotic automakers an out from adding cameras.

NHTSA estimates that adding backup cameras to cars without them will cost between $132 and $142 per vehicle, while adding the systems to cars that already have a display capable of showing a camera’s output (such as a touchscreen) will only cost $43 to $45 per car.