The U.S. Congress passed legislation designed to protect children from injuries or deaths in non-traffic vehicle incidents. President Bush is expected to sign the bill (HR 1216) into law. The measure directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require new vehicles be equipped with a means of alerting the driver if a child is behind the vehicle when it is being backed-up. The specialty-equipment industry has been at the forefront of offering cameras and sensors to address the issue.
It is estimated that at least 1,350 children have died in back-over incidents since 2000. According to the NHTSA, some vehicles, such as SUVs, are particularly vulnerable to blind spots. Under the legislation, the NHTSA is directed to establish performance requirements within Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 111 (Rearview Mirrors) to effectively mandate installation of cameras or sensors on new cars. The NHTSA will have three years to establish the requirements and up to four more years to phase-in full compliance on new vehicles.
The bill also directs the NHTSA to consider requiring power windows and panels to automatically reverse direction if there is an obstruction in the path, such as a child’s head or arm. If the agency decides this is impractical or unnecessary, the NHTSA will be required to explain how it came to that conclusion. Additionally, starting in model year 2011, all cars with an automatic transmission will have to have a brake shift interlock to help prevent vehicle roll-away. The driver is then required to apply the brake in order to shift the vehicle out of park.
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