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Public Citizen Brings Heat to Administration for Continued Delay of Key Auto Safety Rule

by Ben Somberg

Press Officer

You can look through all three mirrors in your car, you can turn backwards, but here’s what you still don’t see when you’re backing up:

Courtesy KidsAndCars.org

Each year, more than 200 individuals are killed and 18,000 injured in “backover” crashes. Drivers using all three mirrors cannot see a blind zone several feet high directly behind their vehicles. Forty-four percent of those killed in backover incidents are children under 5 years old. Each week, on average, 50 children are injured, two fatally, by backover crashes.

There’s a pretty good fix: backup cameras. Automakers have made them more and more common. But while some vehicles have them, others don’t. And the deaths and injuries continue.

In 2008, Congress passed a law to address the problem. Yes, Democrats and Republicans came together – the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and overwhelmingly in the House. President George W. Bush signed it.

The law ordered the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue a rule requiring significantly improved rear visibility in new consumer vehicles, through backup cameras or other means. It ordered DOT to do so within three years, permitting the agency to extend the deadline only if it “cannot be met.”

The deadline came and went. The White House reviewed the agency’s final draft of the rule for more than a year and a half, and then in June the rule went back to the agency for more study – even though the agency has already catalogued its “extensive” research on the issue. The agency now pledges it will issue the rule by 2015. That would be four years late.

Public Citizen attorney Scott Michelman is the legal counsel for a group of organizations and individuals who sued the Department of Transportation today. “When Congress ordered this rule issued in three years, they meant three years, not seven,” Michelman says. “It’s time for a court to step in and make the Transportation Department issue the rule.”

We are asking a court to order the agency to issue the final rule within 90 days.

Today’s lawsuit was featured in Reuters, the Washington Post, the Today show, Bloomberg and Good Morning America:

Dr. Greg Gulbransen, who killed his two-year old son Cameron while backing up, wrote an op-ed published in today’s Washington Post making the case for how the administration needs to act to fulfill the mandate of the law and save lives. Writes Gulbransen: “This rule will come too late for Cameron, but it will save thousands of other children’s lives.”