Liability for Auto Manufacturer's Failure to Install Backup Cameras

19 years ago, a small child was in a parking lot holding his mother's hand. They were nearly clear of a parked car, but suddenly it backed up. He was dragged underneath. Immediately, he was paralyzed from the neck down. The car didn't have a backup camera that would have shown them to the driver.

Hundreds of kids and others are injured or killed every year by cars that don't have backup cameras. That's hard to believe because, in the 6 years after Congress passed a law in 2007 ordering the Department of Transportation to create a rule requiring cameras or backup warning devices on all new cars and light trucks by 2011, no rule is in place. As a result, the administration has been sued to create a rule without further delay.

The most vulnerable groups for injury are kids under 5 because they are too small to see when playing or walking behind vehicles, and adults over 70, who often can't move fast enough out of the way of a car that's backing up. NHTSA reports that every year, 228 people die in backup accidents. Only 2 years ago, it is estimated that the cost of cars with dash display screens would rise by about $53-$98 if equipped with the devices. A small price to pay to save your child or grandchild.

This raises another question. What liability does a light vehicle manufacturer have for not voluntarily installing the cameras on every car and truck? Maybe none in the absence of a federal rule, and if other manufacturers aren't installing them, but if the majority of vehicles are being equipped by manufacturers, I think a reasonable standard of care is being breached by a manufacturer that doesn't install a backup camera as standard equipment.

As of 2013, a majority of new vehicles came equipped with backup cameras, so today, maybe a manufacturer which sells a car or light truck without one will have its day of reckoning in court when a child is hurt or killed.

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