rearview-cameraThe U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) is being sued to issue the long-delayed rule requiring rear view cameras as a standard feature in new cars.

According to Bloomberg, three advocacy groups and two parents are pushing for DOT to enforce the rear-view mirror requirement. The rule was supposed to be issued by the department 2 1/2 years ago in 2011.  The plaintiffs want the court to force the DOT to issue a mandatory rule within 90 days. The costs to automotive manufacturers are estimated at $2.7 billion.

In June 2013, the DOT announced it was delaying the rule for a fourth time and setting a self-imposed new deadline of January 2, 2015.  Before the lawsuit was filed, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it would add rear-view camera systems to its list of safety feature recommendations on all vehicles.  NHTSA estimates an average of 292 people, mostly children and elderly, are killed each year in backover accidents.  Half of those deaths are preventable with rear view cameras.

Automakers say that rule is too costly and restraining on the type of technology. However, 96% of Honda’s vehicles this year have these camera systems. The company is running an advertising campaign stating they’re “the right thing to do.”

Although rear view cameras have been around for a while, many automakers are not installing this feature by default because it is not a requirement.  The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturer claims that the automakers are providing cameras, but consumer should decide which of these technologies they want to buy.

There are many variables that can lead to potential product liability lawsuits stemming from the new rule.  It matters to litigators and expert witnesses because the automaker might be liable for the future backover accidents.  An accident reconstruction expert witness would determine if rearview cameras would have made a difference in the accident at issue.   If the accident is a result of a rear view camera defect or failure, an automotive engineering expert witness would have to look at the rear view system and opine on the cause of failure.  The opinions and testimony of these witnesses would be the foundation of this kind of case.  On a positive note, consumers, advocacy groups, government entities, automakers, and experts are working together to make driving safer.

By Rodney Warner, J.D.