Backup Cameras Required in New Vehicles

Backup Car

Federal regulations pending since 2008 finally took effect earlier this month, requiring automakers to attach backup cameras to all new vehicles. Many high-end cars already have this feature, but now all newly-manufactured vehicles must contain a rearview camera. Regulators and lawmakers hope the device will reduce the number of pedestrian deaths – especially those involving children, who are too small to be seen without the camera. Every year, there are nearly 200 deaths and 14,000 injuries that result from rearward driving.

Pleased With the Measures

Janette Fennell, president of, expressed her sincere excitement at the regulations: “This day is so important because we don’t have a choice,” she said, referring to children’s safety. She added, “This measure will save countless lives, especially of children.”


In 2008, Congress passed a bill, entitled the “Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act,” which required the Department of Transportation to write new regulations that ensured better rearward visibility, so that drivers could see children directly behind the vehicle. Those rules were supposed to go into effect in 2011, but the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA), which is a part of the DOT, never implemented the regulations because the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) held up the process.

Delay, Delay, Delay

A 2015 Reuters report explained the OIRA’s purpose and its reason for stalling the regulatory process. OIRA, an agency built during the Reagan years, gets little attention in the media, but its role in the rule-writing process is pivotal. The agency employs around 50 staff members, whose job is to review rules to be implemented by the executive branch. Upon review, OIRA has the ability to delay, change or even, in certain cases, rescind rules.

The NHTSA did its due diligence, as required by the 2008 statute. The agency wrote a rule requiring manufacturers to place rearview cameras in all new vehicles. The rule would have been implemented over several years, starting in 2012 and culminating in 2014. By that year, every car, whether an SUV or a minivan, would have been outfitted with a backup camera – that is, if OIRA hadn’t interfered.


OIRA, it should be noted, started in a climate of deregulation. The agency has thus become known for its inclination toward all things deregulatory. Jim Simons, who worked in the NHTSA’s office of regulatory analysis during the years in question, highlighted OIRA’s irrational animus toward the rearview camera rule. On one occasion, Simons noted, a staff member, skeptical of the rule’s purpose, said, “’How could anybody run over their own kid?’” According to Simons, they flat out fabricated reasons to delay the rule, asking again and again for the NHTSA to go back to the drawing board.

Finally Issued

Advocates, frustrated by the lack of action, took to the courts, suing the NHTSA and demanding that new rules be implemented once and for all – that was in 2014, when the NHTSA finally issued the backup camera rules. According to the regulations, all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds must have the appropriate camera, allowing the driver to see a 10’x20’ area to the rear of the vehicle.


Critics argue that the additional costs incurred by the regulation will trickle down to consumers, who will have to pay an additional $40 on vehicles already outfitted with a screen and $140 on cars without such a feature. Nonetheless, safety advocates praise the recently implemented rule, saying the social benefits outweigh the additional costs.


Still, there are those who lament the rule’s delay and OIRA’s efforts to stall the regulation. John Simpson, of Consumer Watchdog, told Detroit News, “Obviously, some of the automakers started to phase them in before, but I would have preferred to have seen such an obvious safety enhancement be required much sooner after that rule making.”

Dr. Greg Gulbransen, whose son is the namesake of the original 2008 bill, is certainly happy the rules are in effect. Backing up his vehicle in 2002, he accidentally hit his son, Cameron, who was two at the time of the incident. Cameron died that day, like so many other children who are invisible to reversing vehicles. Now, with this new rule, children may be better protected against such perils.

Sean Lally About Sean Lally

Sean Lally holds a BA in Philosophy from Temple University where he also studied theatre for several years. Between 2007 and 2017, he worked as a professional actor for several regional theater companies in Philadelphia, including the Arden Theatre Co., EgoPo Productions, Lantern Theater and the Bearded Ladies. In 2010, Sean co-founded Found Theater Company, an avant-garde artist collective with whom he first started to cultivate an identity as a writer.