The plan, which is expected to be passed on to Congress later this week, comes in response to a NHTSA proposal from late 2010. That detailed proposal stems from 2008's Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, which was named after a two-year-old child who was killed when his father backed over him while at the wheel of the family's SUV. The Gulbransen Act required NHTSA to set rear visibility regulations, but few specifics have been set. Vehicles like SUVs and crossovers with high seating positions offer the worst low object rear visibility, but the pursuit of improved aerodynamics has also raised the decklid and decreased rear window sizes in more conventional sedans and coupes.
Backup cameras, which typically incorporate a small display in either the rearview mirror or a central navigation/infotainment screen, are available on a wide range of new cars, but NHTSA's plan to make them mandatory marks the agency's first major foray into pedestrian protection.
NHTSA says that 228 people are killed every year when a driver accidentally backs over them in a driveway or a house. In the majority of cases involving a small child, a parent or close relative was at the wheel of the car. NHTSA regulators say that around 17,000 people are injured in backup accidents.
Federal regulators are expected to make backup cameras mandatory equipment beginning in 2014.