Four years from now, it will be illegal to manufacture a car without a rearview camera. The new regulation is to meant to prevent back-over accidents from hurting small children and seniors, so who could be against that? Apparently not one person, because the New York Times story on this regulation features not one dissenting voice. No one who could say, “Gee, this will definitely add to the cost of new vehicles, making them less affordable and attainable for middle-class families.” No one who could say, “This sounds like a nice idea, but must it be mandated by government?” Not even anyone to point out, “Hey, 85 PERCENT OF NEW CARS ALREADY HAVE THIS SO WHY ARE YOU WRITING A LAW?”

Rear cameras already are standard or optional equipment on 85 percent of model year 2014 vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That compares with only 5 percent of vehicles available with rear cameras in 2005.


Backup cameras have become more common since then, as consumers have started to demand the technology and more vehicles have been sold with big navigation screens that can easily display the video feed from a backup camera.

Some automakers have raced to adopt the feature. Honda says that with the launch of the 2015 Honda Fit, its entire U.S. lineup will come standard with backup cameras.

A rearview camera would have become routinely standard within in a couple years, but the American people can’t be trusted with things that are “optional.”

Why allow the market to speak when you can force people to comply with your will?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued new regulations today requiring all vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds to be equipped with rear visibility cameras by May 2018. The new rule is designed to protect pedestrians from vehicles backing up into them, though it has up until now faced numerous delays.

Though carmakers like Honda and Toyota have already begun to outfit their cars with backup cameras, the regulations will apply to all cars, buses, and trucks for the 2019 model year.

I used a quick Google search of the sort the New York Times is incapable to turn up a Mercatus writer addressing the unintended consequences of such a regulation when it was delayed in 2013. It’s a rule made for the rich, he says:

Not surprisingly, low income families spend less on private risk mitigation than high income families do. Similarly, those who live in lower income areas tend to face higher mortality risks from a whole host of factors (e.g. accidents, homicide, cancer), when compared to those who live in wealthier neighborhoods. People with higher incomes tend to demand more risk reduction, just as they demand more of other goods or services. Therefore, spending money to reduce very low probability risks, like the risk of being backed over by a car in reverse, is more in line with preferences of the wealthy, since the wealthy will demand more risk reduction of this sort than the poor will.

Such a rule may also result in unintended consequences. Just as using seat belts has been shown to lead to people driving faster, relying on a rearview camera when driving in reverse may lead to people being less careful about backing up. For example, someone could be running outside of the camera’s view, and only come into view just as he or she is hit by the car. Relying on cameras entirely may increase the risk of some people getting hit.

The rule, which originally would have gone into effect this year, was delayed four times partly because of administration concerns about the price problem. Of course, now that they’ve imposed it, it is henceforth evil to wonder whether it is wise. Why do you hate children and old people?

Front page photo credit to Leah Jones on Flickr.