Unbuckled children account for 5 times more deaths than backoverS

In January 10, 2012 the Department of Transportation wrote letters to members of Congress explaining they would not be able to meet their deadline of February 28, 2011 to implement a new law to improve rear visibility aimed at reducing the number of backover fatalities.

On December 7, 2010, NHTSA filed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) titled, Rear View Mirrors and Low Speed Vehicles. Due to the number of comments NHTSA decided to add a “supplementary 45-day comment period, a public meeting, a technical workshop, and further analysis.” These additional steps resulted in a longer regulatory process and caused NHTSA to miss their legislative deadline, thus prompting the letter above.

NTHSA seems to have underestimated concerns from the auto industry and the technical complexity of the issue. It also appears they waited two years to start the rulemaking process.

The Automotive Alliance, an automotive lobbying group, offered many comments on the rule. One of the more interesting comments had to do with a mandatory 2 second response time.

NHTSA determined that for any rear detection systems to be effective it would need to respond within 2 seconds of startup. Modern cars lack the need to warm up therefore most people get in, buckle up and take off. While engines may not need to warm up, electronics do.

The Alliance said a 2 second response time was impossible. They added that most systems require at least 10-13 seconds to startup and that it would take automakers 4 years to develop systems to meet this new standard.

The Cost Benefit Analysis

The White House’s Meeting Record webpage shows a December 2011 meeting between NHTSA, The Automotive Alliance, the Consumer Electronics Association (another lobbying group) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This meeting took place one year after the original NPR was filed and was a discussion on the cost benefit analysis of various systems that could be used to meet the regulatory goal of reducing backover fatalities.

Below are a few of the slides from that discussion:

Unbuckled children account for 5 times more deaths than backover

Unbuckled children account for 5 times more deaths than backover

Unbuckled children account for 5 times more deaths than backover

Unbuckled children account for 5 times more deaths than backover

It’s been six years since the Kids Transportation Safety Act was signed into law. The last record in the rulemaking docket is a meeting that took place in February of this year between NHTSA and KidsandCars.org.

In that meeting KidsandCars informed NHTSA that in 2012 37% of all child backover fatalities were committed by children's parents. A very sad fact.

Put it in perspective

According to KidsandCars.org 70 children were killed in backover accidents in 2012 and 79 were killed in 2011. That is a sad statistic, but here is another one – there were 371 fatalities in 2011 of occupants 0-15 years of age who were unrestrained (not buckled). These deaths are preventable and are not accidents. They are acts of negligence.

Below is a breakout of fatalities from NHTSA of occupants by age group who were unrestrained:

Break out by age group - 0-4 years: 77; 4-7 years: 58; 8-12 years: 85; 13-15 years: 151.

This begs the question: why are we spending an incredible amount of time and resources to address backover fatalities when 5 times as many children are being killed because jackass parents won’t buckle them up? As a parent, this really disturbs me.

What are your thought? Is technology the appropriate solution for preventing backover fatalities? Are you willing to pay the added cost of the technology? Do you think the law should be repealed?