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Backup camera rules take a backseat, pedestrians still at risk

In an accident between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian, it is very often the pedestrian that suffers the most. Because of how vulnerable people on the street are, being struck by a car can result in catastrophic injuries. In many cases, pedestrians suffer broken bones, spinal cord injuries, head trauma and even death if they get hit by a car. This is why it is crucial for drivers to be attentive and cautious behind the wheel. 

But driving safely may not be enough to prevent a devastating pedestrian accident in Seattle. For years, car makers have been improving vehicle designs that keep motorists safer and help them save on fuel prices, but this has come at the expense of pedestrians. In 2007, Congress ordered the Transportation Department to address the visibility concerns on vehicles that put pedestrians in danger. However, that has still not been done and now a group has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration to prompt legislative action.

According to reports, the main issue at stake is the poor visibility that many newer cars have when a driver is backing up. Car models now are higher off the ground with wider structural supports and smaller windows. These features are supposed to keep drivers safer in rollover accidents and make cars more fuel-efficient. But all of these features have reduced the visibility that drivers have when they are backing up.

By not being able to see behind them, many drivers are inadvertently running into people who they cannot see. Children and elderly pedestrians are the most vulnerable victims of these accidents.

The Transportation Department was supposed to have a rule in effect by now requiring automakers to install back-up cameras or sensors in every car or light-weight truck, starting with 2014 models. These features would be essential in allowing the driver to "see" behind them and avoid hitting a pedestrian. But sadly, no such rules have been set and people are understandably upset. That is why parents and safety advocates filed a lawsuit against the administration for not meeting the deadline for regulation.

A solution cannot come quickly enough. Every year, nearly 230 pedestrians are killed by a vehicle that is backing up. Sadly, 44 percent of these victims are young children. By delaying actions that could protect these people, hundreds of pedestrians are still at risk of being injured or killed in an accident. 

Source: USA Today, "Administration sued over backup camera delay," Fred Meier and Chris Woodyard, Sept. 26, 2013

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