Mandatory Back-up Cameras: Worth the Cost?

March 6, 2012

Backup Camera.jpgI am fortunate that I've never had to litigate a case involving a driver who backed up into a child or a person. Statistically, about 16,000 of these accidents happen every year, with about 300 deaths. The drivers are most often (70%) the parents or family members of children who are injured.

There have been proposals since at least 2008 to require all cars to feature backup cameras. Many thought the rule on rear visibility standards was going to pass this year, but it has been delayed once again. The automobile wants lawmakers to consider other alternatives.

One proponent likens backup cameras to airbags--prevailing wisdom was that the public didn't want them, but they did. Now, we accept that the cost of an airbag is built into the car, and if it increases the price a bit, that's the price for safety. Backup cameras could increase the costs of cars by $200.

To some, the question is a cost-benefit analysis:

An auto alliance presentation noted that the cost of the regulation per life saved is $11 million under the rear visibility rule, compared with $9.8 million per life saved under a roof strength regulation and less than $4 million for side impact regulations.
So, what's a life worth? We actually know the answer to that. In Maryland, the legislature has decided the value of a life by setting the "cap" on damages, including wrongful death. For 2012, a life (in a non-medical malpractice situation) is worth $1,887,500. That doesn't include "economic" damages (lost wages, medical expenses, etc.). It's purely the value of the life and the value of the pain and suffering borne by the surviving beneficiaries. If those numbers are correct (my opinion? They're not), then we shouldn't get back-up cameras because they are too costly. A single Maryland child is not worth $11 million.

Tell that to her mom and dad.

For More Information

  • Stories of children killed because they were in a vehicle's blindzone
  • 60 for Safety: Blindzone Awareness Initiative
  • On a lawyer feelgood note (we're not all bad!), this fall hundreds of lawyers will pledge to give talks to hundreds of organizations in the U.S. and Canada to help increase blindzone awareness. For more information on that initiative, or to help out, click here