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Watch your back: Transportation Secretary wants mandatory rearview camera bill finalized by the end of December

2013 Honda Civic Si rearview camera imageTransportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he will meet with White House officials to finalize a bill that would make rearview cameras mandatory in all cars, the Detroit News reports. LaHood hopes to have the bill finalized by December 31.

“We have a meeting with the White House about this in the next few days, so I hope that they see the importance of this the way we do,” LaHood told the Detroit News.

Congress originally passed legislation requiring the government to set rear visibility standards by February 2011, but LaHood pushed the date back. He has been working on a set of regulations to reduce vehicle blind spots since February 2012.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration first argued for mandatory rearview cameras in December 2010; it hoped to make them standard equipment on all new cars beginning in 2014. It said cameras were more effective than sensors in preventing crashes when cars back up.

According to the NHTSA, “backover” accidents kill about 300 people each year and injure 16,000.

The NHTSA’s 2010 report said preventing those incidents would cost the auto industry $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion annually. It would also raise MSRPs by $58 to $88 for vehicles with display screens and $159 to $203 for vehicles without display screens.

According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the cost of rearview camera regulations per life saved would be $11 million, compared to $9.8 million for roof strength regulations and less than $4 million for side impact regulations.

Many cars already come with rearview cameras. The technology first hit the market a few years ago, but it has trickled down to mainstream brands like Volkswagen and Honda. A rearview camera even comes standard on the $18,165 Civic LX sedan.

Camera technology has progressed to the point where just having one isn’t enough to stand out. The basic Civic without navigation gets one camera with a single angle, while the more expensive Infiniti JX crossover has several cameras that can give the driver a 360-degree view, along with Backup Collision Intervention, which automatically applies the brake if it senses an obstacle.

With so many cameras around, drivers of the future may spend as much time looking at their dashboard screens as they do looking out the windows. Will the camera-less backup move become a lost art?