Saying Bye-Bye to the Bye-Bye Syndrome?

According to a report by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released in 2008, there were an average of 221 fatalities and 14,000 injuries per year caused by non-traffic backing accidents between 2002 and 2006. Backing injuries drew national attention in 2008, when the five-year old daughter of the Christian recording artist, Stephen Curtis Chapman was killed when her brother accidentally backed into her while moving an SUV.

But the national awareness did not stop them from continuing.  In 2015, a Katy child was killed when she was hit by her mother while backing out of the driveway. Even more recently, on February 23rd, 2017, a one-year-old child died of her injuries after her mother accidentally struck the child while backing out of the driveway.

This epidemic has been dubbed the “Bye-Bye Syndrome” because all too frequently it involves people coming out to waive goodbye to a family member. When a child of tender age gets loose and slips behind a vehicle unbeknownst to the adults, the results can be fatal.

As a result of the high rate of injuries–particularly to children–the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration passed a new rule in 2014 that requires all vehicles to have a rear visibility system that has a field of view that includes a 20-foot by 10-foot zone immediately behind the vehicle.  The rule has been gradually phasing in, but as of May of 2018, this rule will apply to all passenger vehicles weighing under 10,000 lbs.

While rule does not specifically say that backup cameras are required, they do state in the introductory rule summary that: “[t]he agency anticipates that, in the near term, vehicle manufacturers will use rearview video systems and in-vehicle visual displays to meet the requirements of this final rule.”

Many modern vehicles come standard with backup cameras. However, not all of them meet the field-of-view requirement of the 2014 rule.  Many existing cars on the road today have no backup camera at all. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, any vehicle can be retrofitted with a back-up camera. The estimated cost to retrofit a car or truck that already has a in dash display screen is between $58 to $88. If the vehicle does not already have a screen then the cost is between $159 and $203 to add the camera and display.

Critics of this new rule suggest that further studies show that the back-up cameras have not had a significant impact upon reducing backup accidents. One article pointed out that although the number of cameras in vehicles have more than doubled in recent years, the decline in backup accidents and fatalities has not been substantially reduced.  Proponents would argue that the per vehicle cost to retrofit old cars and add a camera to new cars is cheap if it can save even one child’s life.