INSIGHTS On Massachusetts Personal Injury Law

Welcome to the SUGARMAN blog. We'll be sharing our perspectives on the state of the law and current legal issues in Massachusetts personal injury law. Issues relating to medical malpractice, construction site injuries, premises liability, product liability, motor vehicle accidents, insurance, and more will all be reviewed here by our team of lawyers who have prosecuted some of the most complex cases in Massachusetts personal injury law.

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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Requires Rear Visibility Technology on All New Vehicles by 2018

Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a rule which would require rearview cameras to be installed in all new “light vehicles” by May 1, 2018. Light vehicles includes all cars, trucks, vans and SUVs under 10,000 pounds – a vast majority of vehicles on the road today. The safety regulation, which was first introduced as a requirement of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007, amends the NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) on rearview mirrors, FMVSS No. 111. Though first introduced in 2010, the regulation’s rollout has been repeatedly delayed due to efforts to conduct research on the issues involved, most likely a result of car manufacturers’ resistance to the new rule.

While technically amending the NHTSA standard on rearview mirrors, the regulation sets requirements for a specified visible area of ten feet wide by twenty feet long immediately behind the center point of a vehicle’s bumper. This area encompasses the area of highest risk for pedestrians to be struck in these type of accidents. In order to satisfy this visibility requirement, the NHTSA notes that “it appears that, in the near term, the only technology available with the ability to comply with this proposal would be a rear visibility system that includes a rear-mounted video camera and an in-vehicle visual display.”

The Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007 was named for a two year old, Cameron Gulbransen, who was tragically killed when his father accidentally backed over him in their driveway. While terrible, this story is not uncommon. According to the studies supporting the final rule, the NHTSA estimates that an average of 15,000 injuries occur annually, with 210 fatalities, as a result of these so-called “back over” accidents. Of all of the fatalities, approximately 57% were either children under 5 years old or elderly individuals age 70 or older.

This effective use of technology to save a considerable number of lives comes at little cost to the public, as the impact on overall vehicle cost passed on to the consumer is estimated to be minimal. The NHTSA rule estimates that implementing rearview video systems in the manufacture of a new vehicle without any existing display screen will cost between $132 – $142 per vehicle. For vehicles with an appropriate pre-existing display (such as one for a navigation system), the cost of implementing a camera system is estimated to be between $43 – $45 per vehicle.

This rule will lessen the damage done by these types of accidents but will not eliminate it. The NHTSA estimates that between 58 and 69 lives will be saved annually once all vehicles on the road are equipped with this technology. Unfortunately, that level of compliance is not expected until approximately 2054.

SUGARMAN has extensive experience litigating motor vehicle accidents that involve serious injuries, including the types of “back over” accidents addressed by the NHTSA regulation. To contact us, please fill out a Contact Form, call us at (617) 542-1000 or e-mail info@sugarman.com.