In March, 2014 NHTSA finalized a rule requiring rear visibility technology in all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds by May 2018. The final rule
“…requires all vehicles under 10,000 pounds, including buses and trucks, manufactured on or after May 1, 2018, to come equipped with rear visibility technology that expands the field of view to enable the driver of a motor vehicle to detect areas behind the vehicle to reduce death and injury resulting from backover incidents. The field of view must include a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. The system must also meet other requirements including image size, linger time, response time, durability, and deactivation.”
The rule would also apply to LSVs. According to NHTSA, on average, there are 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries per year caused by backover crashes with more than half of those involving children under 5 or adults over 70.
Comment: While rear view technology is becoming more common in full-size vehicles, it will be more expensive to put into LSVs relative to their overall price. On the other hand, certain market segments such as the college/university market, which already purchase LSVs in part for their safety features, may be willing to pay for this additional feature. Consumers purchasing LSVs for personal transportation may not be as willing.
You could argue that many LSV models offer much more visibility than trucks or buses and full-size cars. Here are some come comments from NHTSA regarding this issue.
Like all other vehicle types covered under today’s final rule, LSVs are required to provide the driver with a rearview image meeting the requirements specified in the regulatory text at the end of this document regardless of whether the vehicle has any significant blind zone. However, like other manufacturers, low-speed vehicle manufacturers can petition NHTSA for an exemption or for rulemaking.
NHTSA did receive some comments regarding the difference in blind spots between LSVs and other vehicles. This is the agency’s response.
…the latest agency research indicate that low-speed vehicle blind zones vary greatly within this vehicle class. Some also contain significant blind zones similar to other passenger cars and light trucks. However, some others may have very small blind zones. As low-speed vehicles may have a GVWR of up to 3,000 lbs., these vehicles are also fully capable of causing injury and death to vulnerable pedestrians. As backover crashes do not typically occur at speeds above 25 mph (the top speed of low-speed vehicles), we believe it is appropriate to include low-speed vehicles in today’s final rule. Further, the agency requested comment on low-speed vehicles in the NPRM and sought information as to whether the agency could reasonably conclude that low-speed vehicles present no unreasonable risk of backover crashes, but nocommenter provided any substantive information on this point. Therefore, the agency cannot reasonably exclude, as a category, low-speed vehicles from the requirements of today’s rule because the available information
The agency estimates the cost per vehicle of such a system will be $132 to $142. However, this includes some assumptions of manufacturing efficiencies and volumes which are more likely to accrue to high volume full-size vehicle manufacturers than lower volume LSV manufacturers. For LSV manufacturers the best approach to this issue may be to petition the agency for specific models or hope that they may share some in some of the cost reductions the rest of the market creates or that future technology becomes less expensive.
Another market response may be for consumers to switch to golf cars or utility vehicles. From SVR’s scanning of road use regulations, more municipalities are allowing golf cars and UTVs varying access to public roads, not just LSVs. This regulation will only add to the cost differential that consumers consider between LSVs and these other vehicles, especially new or used golf cars and lower priced UTVs.