Archive for the ‘nhtsa’ Tag

When is it OK for Your Child to Ride in the Front Seat?

Recently, we’ve started letting our oldest child who is 10 years old (and big for his age) ride in the front seat. Our logic was he’s as tall and weighs as much as an adult so why wouldn’t he be OK?

Apparently, our logic isn’t aligned with what the experts say on the matter.

As with so many parenting issues, the question of when to let your child ride in the front seat can be confusing. But I did discover the age most experts agree on and why.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all recommend that children stay in the back seat until age 13.

Dr. Susan Bolton, a pediatrician at Christie Clinic, says the size of the child doesn’t matter. It’s all about their age.

“All children under 13 years of age should ride in the back seat regardless of height and weight,” Bolton said.

Bolton says there are several reasons why. A major factor is younger children haven’t fully developed their bones yet, which increases the risk to vital organs in a motor vehicle crash.

“Although children under age 13 may weigh as much or be as tall as some adults, their hip bones are not fully developed,” Bolton said. “Even if the lap belt starts out in the right place, it can ride up onto the abdomen in children which increases the risk of injury to the abdominal organs in a motor vehicle crash.”

Bolton added the sternum (the breast bone) may not be fully developed until 11-17 years of age, which puts the child at increased risk of injury to the heart and lungs in a crash.

Also, the three items in the vehicle that are responsible for the most injuries during a motor vehicle crash are the windshield, the dashboard and the air bag. Bolton said children properly buckled up in the back seat are not likely to come into contact with these items.

Studies have shown that after the age of 13, the risk of injury to a child in a crash becomes equal to the risk in an adult.

The Illinois Secretary of State guidelines, which are based on AAP recommendations, also say children should be kept in the back seat until they are teenagers.

In fact, the state of Illinois guidelines go on to say 8-12-year-olds who aren’t big enough to fit properly in a seatbelt alone should sit in a booster seat. (The image below shows how a seatbelt should properly fit your child.)


The general consensus says seat belts don’t typically fit children properly until they are at least 57 inches tall (4 feet 9 inches) and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds.

That means small 7th graders should be in a booster seat? I imagine that would be a tough sell for some tweens.

I’m guessing it’s also going to be difficult for my son when I tell him he has to return to the back seat with his little brother and sister.

I’ll just blame it on the experts.

For more information about children’s seatbelt safety laws and guidelines, go to the Secretary of State’s website.

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Chrysler 200 Vs. Chevrolet Malibu: Compare Cars

The 2016 Chrysler 200 and the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu are sleek, affordable, and full of features–but which one is better for you?

By our numeric rankings, the Chrysler 200 slightly outscores the Chevy Malibu, but that result comes with a couple of caveats. First, it’s largely due to the Chrysler’s excellent safety scores and the absence of data with the new Malibu. The Chevy simply hasn’t yet been tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS, so its score could rise if it performs well.

And while we found few flaws in the Malibu, the 200 has a pair of issues that affect family-car shoppers in particular. Its rear seat simply isn’t large enough for two adults to ride comfortably–the same problem the previous Malibu had–and its nine-speed automatic transmission can be inconsistent, balky, and often unpredictable.

Both of these four-doors are targeted at the heart of the mid-size sedan market. The 200, now in its second model year, replaced an unloved previous generation that dated back to the Chrysler Sebring a decade ago. The Malibu, new this year, also replaces a less-than-successful model that lasted only three years.

The Chrysler 200 has a smoothly rounded shape led by a refined grille and front end. The roofline is long, and tapers down to the tail and a short, flush decklid. It’s a new and elegant appearance for Chrysler that looks more expensive than it is. The 2016 Malibu echoes the handsome Impala in smaller, more svelte proportions. The long new body and rich-looking interior on premium models dispense completely with any historic Chevy references, and it works.

Inside, the Chrysler 200 is superbly detailed, with a waterfall-style dash containing features like sliding cupholders and plenty of cubbies, while the dash itself is covered with top-notch materials, fits, and finishes. A number of design touches are both functional and distinctive—like the rotary shift controller and the pass-through storage area in the center console.

The new Malibu has a more conventional dashboard shape that’s both unified and appealing. The center stack makes space for bigger MyLink infotainment screens, while materials include interesting trim choices—fabric-wrapped panels on less expensive trim levels, metallic-look on others, a leather-looking synthetic wrap on dash and console trim on top models.

While the Chrysler 200 feels roomy in the front seats (if a bit low), it’s less useful in back. The door openings make the rear seat difficult to get into, and the swooping roofline exacts a penalty on riders 6 feet or taller. The Malibu, on the other hand, feels far roomier than its predecessor, due to design decisions that maximize the feeling of interior space. The dash has been lowered and pushed out at the corners; new seats offer better support all around; and there’s much more rear legroom than before. Four larger adults can ride comfortably in the Malibu, not in the 200.

The Chrysler offers two powertrains, a 184-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 295-hp 3.6-liter V-6, both with nine-speed automatic transmissions. All-wheel drive is available with the V-6 only. We’ve found the nine-speed automatic can shift abruptly—especially with the four-cylinder. You’ll find the V-6 has a bit of torque steer unless you opt for all-wheel drive. The 200’s fuel efficiency is lower than many mid-size sedans with larger interiors, and there’s no hybrid or diesel model. The four-cylinder gets 28 mpg combined; switch up to the V-6 and that falls to 23 mpg combined. Add all-wheel drive, and you drop to 22 mpg combined–no better than some mid-size SUVs.

Most Malibu will be powered by a 160-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s quiet, composed, and hard to catch flat-footed. High-end models step up to a 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo four, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that gives precise, defined gear changes. This top turbo Malibu now feels as quick as predecessors with V-6s, and offers some of the best drivability and refinement in its class. There’s no AWD option, though.

Finally, there’s a Malibu Hybrid, which pairs a 1.8-liter (non-turbo) four-cylinder with a 1.5-kwh battery pack and twin electric motors that effectively operate as a continuously variable transmission. This model makes 182 hp combined and can operate in electric-only mode up to 55 mph. Gasoline Malibus with the 1.5-liter turbo get 31 mpg–a start-stop system is standard–while those with the 2.0-liter turbo come in at 26 mpg combined. The Malibu Hybrid is rated at 47 mpg combined–better than any other hybrid mid-size sedan this year.

The Chrysler 200 gets excellent crash-test ratings from both U.S. agencies. And it offers an available lane-departure warning system, blind-spot monitors, and forward-collision warnings with automatic braking, plus adaptive cruise control and rain-sensing wipers.

We’d expect the Malibu to earn some top-level scores from both the NHTSA and IIHS when test results are released. It too has a long list of available active-safety items–pretty much everything on the 200 plus some newer systems as well, although most are the exclusive domain of the top LT and Premier models.

In the end, the Chrysler 200 edges the Chevy Malibu on styling and an excellent interior, though it’s a very close finish. Pending test results for the Malibu, the 200 also gets the safety crown. The Malibu is far more fuel-efficient in both gasoline versions, not to mention the Hybrid–but those scores don’t factor into our overall rating. Either one is stylish, fresh, well-equipped, and will provide comfortable transport. If you need to put adults in the rear, though, you’ll want the Malibu.

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NHTSA, Safe Kids Worldwide and safety advocates urge parents to register car seats and take action during a recall

WASHINGTON – In advance of National Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 13-19), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind and Safe Kids President and CEO Kate Carr joined safety advocates today at the Department of Transportation for a press conference encouraging parents and caregivers to register car seats with the manufacturer and to take immediate action if the product is a part of a recall.

In 2014, more than six million car seats were recalled for a safety defect – the largest car seat recall in U.S. history. Yet, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fewer than half of those car seats received the necessary repair.

“The safety of children in cars is our biggest priority,” said Administrator Rosekind. “NHTSA is committed to helping parents register their car seats and other child products with manufacturers, which we know is critical if there is a recall. We’re also committed to working with manufacturers to make sure parents receive a quick and thorough solution during a recall so children are protected.”

Safe Kids and NHTSA strongly urge all parents and caregivers to follow these steps to ensure their child is protected in a vehicle.

Register Your Car Seat

Option 1: Register online with your car seat manufacturer or You’ll need the model number and date of manufacture found on the label on your car seat.

Option 2: Fill out and mail in the registration card that came with your car seat. It already includes your car seat’s information. No postage required.

Find Out if your Car Seat is Recalled

Visit the NHTSA website and enter your seat’s brand name and model.

“The single best way for parents to learn about a recall is to register their car seat with the manufacturer. Unfortunately, this important first step doesn’t happen nearly enough,” said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “During Child Passenger Safety week, we want to remind all parents to register their car seats and take action when a recall occurs. This is a cost-free remedy the manufacturer provides — and must provide — to protect your child.”

To understand why so few recalled car seats get repaired and to educate parents about the importance of recalls, Safe Kids Worldwide released “Car Seat Recalls: What Every Parent Needs to Know,” a new study which reveals that only 42 percent of parents said they filled out and returned the registration card. That means that on average, six out of 10 parents risk not hearing about a car seat recall in the most timely and dependable manner – directly from the manufacturer. The study, with support from General Motors Foundation, surveyed 562 parents of children who use a car seat, and collected responses from 44 parents who participated in an online bulletin board discussion.

“Through our nearly 20 year partnership with Safe Kids, we’ve made it our mission to help keep families safe in vehicles and on the road,” said Greg Martin, executive director of Global Public Policy for General Motors. “Each year, part of our annual grant is dedicated to fund research studies that shines light on ways to better protect children in and around vehicles.”

When a recall occurs, manufacturers use the information provided on that registration card to contact consumers directly and, if needed, provide the information and appropriate equipment to repair the car seat.

“Manufacturers want consumers to provide their information so if there is new or additional safety information about the car seat, they can be contacted,” said Kelly Mariotti, executive director of Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. “Registering the product isn’t difficult, no information from registration cards can be used for marketing purposes, and it’s an additional level of protection when traveling with children.”

During the final day of National Child Passenger Safety Week, recognized as National Seat Check Saturday, Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians will show parents and caregivers how to correctly use, install and register their car seats. Safe Kids will host more than 500 child seat inspections across the country. Car seat inspections are a free service, available to parents year round. Visit to locate an event in your community at any time.

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NHTSA encourages parents of teens to join the ‘5 to Drive’ campaign

Campaign gives parents the words to use when they talk with their teens about the rules of the road

WASHINGTON – In recognition of National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 18-24, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges parents and guardians of teen drivers to discuss with their teens one traffic safety topic each day. Those topics, also the most risky behaviors among teens, include alcohol, texting, failure to wear seat belts, speeding, and riding with extra teen passengers.

“When parents model and reinforce safe driving habits, they equip their teens with the skills to safely navigate the roadways for life,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Parents need to take the time to talk with their kids about behaviors that will keep them safe, and those that create greater risk.”

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds in the United States. In 2013, there were 2,614 teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes and an estimated 130,000 were injured. Yet a survey shows that only 25 percent of parents have had a serious talk with their kids about the key components of driving. During National Teen Driver Safety Week, and as part of the “5 to Drive” campaign, NHTSA urges parents and guardians to make time to have these talks, and to continue those conversations throughout the learning-to-drive process.

The “5 to Drive” campaign addresses the five most dangerous and deadly behaviors for teen drivers.

No alcohol – The minimum legal drinking age in every state is 21. However, in 2013, among 15- to 20-year-old drivers killed in crashes, 29 percent had been drinking.

No cell phone use or texting while driving – Texting or dialing while driving is more than just risky – it’s deadly. In 2013, among drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 11 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the highest percentage of drivers distracted by phone use. In 2013, 318 people were killed in crashes that involved a distracted teen driver.

No driving or riding without a seat belt – In 2013, more than half (55%) of all 15- to 20-year-old occupants of passenger vehicles killed in crashes were unrestrained.
No speeding – In 2013, speeding was a factor in 42 percent of the crashes that killed 15- to 20-year-old drivers.

No extra passengers – NHTSA data shows that a teenage driver is 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky behaviors when driving with one teenage passenger and three times more likely with multiple teenage passengers

“The ‘5 to Drive’ campaign gives parents and teens a simple, straightforward checklist that can help them talk about good driving skills, and most importantly, prevent a tragedy before it happens,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.

To address the issue of underage drinking, NHTSA has joined with the Ad Council to launch a new public service announcement campaign that targets new drivers 16 and 17 years old, and is built around the idea of “Underage Drinking and Driving: The Ultimate Party Foul.” The campaign includes a TV ad, a Tumblr site, web banners and outdoor advertising. A branded emoji keyboard will be available later on both the iOS and Android platforms. View the PSAs and learn more about the campaign.

NHTSA has also partnered with the Ad Council to develop new English and Spanish TV PSAs that target motorists who text and drive. The new ads remind people that the kind of overconfidence displayed by those who text and drive is not only selfish – it’s dangerous. The PSAs also make it clear that no one is special enough to text and drive. View the PSA

Young Drivers Traffic Safety Facts Sheet

More information on NHTSA’s “5 to Drive” campaign and the five rules designed to help save the lives of teen drivers

Stay connected with NHTSA: Search for open recalls with VIN look up | Download the Safercar Mobile App for Apple or Android devices | Receive recall alerts by email | Visit us on | Follow us on | Watch 5-Star Safety Ratings crash tests on |

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NTSB Wants Collision Avoidance Systems To Come Standard On New Cars

Yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a special report entitled The Use of Forward Collision Avoidance Systems to Prevent and Mitigate Rear-End Crashes. In the 60-page document, the agency laid out some of its near-term hopes and dreams for America’s auto industry.
As the title suggests, at the top of the NTSB’s wish list was the widespread availability of forward collision avoidance systems — that is, systems that sound alerts and automatically apply brakes when they identify obstacles in a vehicle’s path. Such systems prevent cars from rear-ending vehicles ahead of them, and many are designed to spot pedestrians, too.

Why would the NTSB place such a high value on collision avoidance systems?

For starters, they could prevent many, many injuries and deaths. In a press conference held at the report’s release, NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart noted that rear-end collisions are responsible for roughly 1,700 deaths each year and half a million injuries. According to the NTSB, over 80 percent of those injuries and fatalities could be avoided or mitigated if collision avoidance systems were widely available. (Which, FWIW, sounds very similar to the NTSB’s stats associated with vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Coincidence?)

But even more importantly, collision avoidance systems are already available. They’re not some far-off, moonshot technology, they don’t require massive sums of infrastructure investment by automakers, states, or the federal government. They can be found on cars right now.
Unfortunately, collision avoidance systems rarely come standard on new cars, and they can be costly add-ons. As the NTSB notes: “Only 4 out of 684 passenger vehicle models in 2014 included a complete forward collision avoidance system as a standard feature. When these systems are offered as options, they are often bundled with other non-safety features, making the overall package more expensive.”

Hart and his colleagues know that the best way to encourage widespread adoption of collision avoidance systems is to require them on new vehicles. The only thing is, he doesn’t want that technology to increase the cost of cars: “You don’t pay extra for your seatbelt. And you shouldn’t have to pay extra for technology that can help prevent a collision altogether.”


It’s a little ironic that the NTSB would issue such a report the same week that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and its potentially flawed collision avoidance system. But that’s not to say that the NTSB’s recommendation isn’t valid. Assuming the agency’s stats are correct, the return on investment in such systems could be huge.

We have a hunch that, like airbags and seatbelts, collision avoidance and other new, high-tech safety systems will soon become standard on new vehicles. Whether that’s due to federal regulation, consumer demand, or automakers’ desire to prove that they care about the safety of their customers is a matter for debate.

As for who’s going to pay for the technology, that’s a no-brainer. Want to take a guess?

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Marchionne: Next Wrangler won’t be all-aluminum

The next-generation Jeep Wrangler won’t be all aluminum, according to FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Marchionne spoke to reporters at the SAE Foundation’s Annual Celebration last night. He was the guest of honor at the event where he received the group’s 2015 Industry Leadership award.

According to a report in today’s Detroit News, Marchionne said that company tests showed the costs of an all-aluminum body outweighed the weight-saving benefits.

“Because of the difference in cost, not just the new material but the actual assembly process, I think we can do almost as well without doing it all-aluminum,” Marchionne was quoted as saying.

The decision could have been fueled by the difficulties Ford Motor Company faced in producing the latest-generation F-150 pickup. The problems, including the tearing of aluminum body panels in the stamping process, caused delays and constrained early deliveries of Ford’s moneymaker.

The announcement could boost the prospects for Toledo, Ohio, which is spending millions of dollars trying to keep Wrangler production in the city.

Marchionne didn’t give any hints, but said Toledo is one of just two sites being considered for the next-generation of the Wrangler.

During his comments, Marchionne also spoke about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) latest actions.

“We need to work with the agency in a very cooperative and open way to make sure that we can meet their requirements for their new stance,” Marchionne said. “We have no option but to comply with their requirements and we will. I have nothing to hide in this process. I just want clear rules.”

He said the agency’s increasingly aggressive stance will increase automakers’ costs as they try to meet new demands; and that he will not be testifying at the NHTSA’s public hearings scheduled for July 2.

Speaking about the new Jeep Renegade, Marchionne confirmed that several issues, including some software problems, were limiting availability of the Italian-built small Jeep.

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Chrysler 200 safety: five stars

The 2015 Chrysler 200 has earned a five-star (the highest possible) overall safety rating from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It scored five stars in frontal collisions, two-vehicle side-impacts, and single-vehicle-with-pole side impacts. It got four stars for rollover resistance.

The 2015 200 had already earned a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The car’s many optional active safety systems do not factor into the ratings, though NHTSA provides recognition on their safety-ratings page for them. Collision-warning systems are required for IIHS Top Safety Pick+ status.

One segment-exclusive feature is the standard Electronic Park Brake (EPB) with SafeHold. This automatically activates the parking brake if the driver’s seatbelt is unlatched and their door is opened while in Drive or Reverse, to prevent rollaways.

Other standard and available features include Electronic Stability Control (ESC), electronic roll mitigation, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, ParkSense rear backup sensors, ParkView rear backup camera, blind-spot monitoring, Rear Cross Path Detection and LATCH child seat anchors.

The 2015 Chrysler 200 is built in Sterling Heights, Michigan, a short drive north from Detroit.

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8 Things You Need To Know About Back-Up Cameras

On the evening of October 19, 2002, pediatrician Greg Gulbransen walked out his front door to move the family’s sport-utility vehicle into the driveway. Unbeknownst to him, his 2-year-old son Cameron followed. Gulbransen was backing up when he felt a small bump, discovering only after it was too late that he’d accidentally run over and killed the boy.

Back-up accidents involving a small child inadvertently hurt or killed by a family member driving away from home happen all too frequently. Driving safety advocate Janette Fennell even has a name for them: the bye-bye syndrome.

On March 31, 2014, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) finalized a long-delayed regulation meant to reduce back-overs, a key part of a 2007 driving safety act named for Cameron Gulbransen. According to the federal agency, the U.S. needs such a rule to curb the accidents, which result in 15,000 injuries a year and 210 deaths. Of those, 31 percent involve children under the age of 5.

The regulation sets a 2018 deadline for rearview monitoring technology to be standard on passenger vehicles sold or leased in the United States. In most vehicles, the technology will consist of a back-up camera.

Drivers don’t have to wait until 2018, though, to get a car with a camera that shows them what’s behind their back bumper. Ever since Nissan’s 2002 Infiniti Q45 became the first car in the United States to include a rearview camera, more manufacturers offer the gear as a standard or optional feature, for safety as well as convenience and better maneuverability.

For the 2014 model year, 46 percent of vehicles sold in the United States include a back-up camera as standard equipment, according to separate estimates from and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

People don’t buy a new car for the back-up camera, but if they’ve driven one with the device, it’s hard to go back to doing without, says Fennell, founder and president of, which lobbied extensively for mandatory rearview technology. “I flip out if I have to get a rental car without it,” she says.

As rearview cameras become ubiquitous, here’s what you need to know about how they work, how effective they are, what car companies offer them and more:

1. Back-up camera systems will have to meet federal standards, but how they operate varies.
The button-size devices are positioned so drivers can see people or objects that are otherwise undetectable using a side or rearview mirror or by glancing over their shoulder. When NHTSA’s rear visibility regulation takes effect, it will require rearview technology to display a 10-by-20-foot area directly behind the vehicle. The rule also requires systems to show the driver an image of the area no more than 2 seconds after they put the vehicle into reverse. According to the rule, 10 percent of automakers’ new vehicles must have the equipment by May 1, 2016, 40 percent by May 1, 2017 and all models by May 1, 2018.

Back-up cameras send images to a display through wires inside the car, or in the case of some aftermarket equipment, wirelessly, using radio waves or a Bluetooth connection. Automakers configure back-up cameras to transmit images to a vehicle’s built-in dashboard display or rearview mirror. For add-on cameras, the images go to a monitor mounted to the dashboard and a receiver plugged into the auxiliary power. Current rearview cameras have either narrow or wide, fish-eye-style lenses, for capturing images of a larger area.

Some automakers tuck the cameras out of the way until they’re needed, with an eye toward improving aerodynamics and design or to keep the lens clean. The Volkswagen CC , for example, houses a back-up camera behind the VW badge on the car’s trunk, just above the license plate. When the driver starts the car or puts it in reverse, the emblem flips open and the camera appears, like a cuckoo popping out of a clock. It retracts when the driver switches out of reverse or drives over 10 mph, says Thomas Zorn, Volkswagen Group of America’s general manager of safety affairs.

2. By several estimates, back-up cameras can help prevent accidents.
In one recent study, close to 57 percent of drivers in vehicles equipped with back-up cameras avoided backing over a stationary object that had been placed behind the vehicle when they weren’t looking. The March 2014 research report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also found that three-quarters of drivers in vehicles with both rearview cameras and audible sensors avoided a back-over accident.

By contrast, 100 percent of drivers in the IIHS study who were operating vehicles without back-up cameras or audible sensors ran over a child-size stationary object that had been surreptitiously placed behind them, according to David Zuby, chief research officer at the IIHS vehicle research center in Ruckersville, Virginia. “Our study adds to the body of evidence that’s been building over several years that cameras will help avoid some of these crashes,” Zuby says.

NHTSA expects rearview visibility systems that meet the final regulations’ standards to be 28-33 percent more effective at avoiding back-over accidents than existing sensor-only systems.

By 2054, when most U.S. vehicles on the road will have rearview systems, the technology should save 58-69 lives a year, according to data NHTSA released with the final rule. By that time, the agency estimates the total benefit from rearview technology to preventing injuries, saving lives and avoiding property should be $265 million to $396 million a year.

3. Cameras can add big costs to new cars. But it’s not really their fault.
Initially, rearview cameras were part of optional bundles on vehicles’ costlier trim levels. One reason was that systems needed an in-dash display to work, and those screens only came on the most expensive models. Another reason, according to Fennell with, is that automakers know people like cameras, and so manufacturers have been attaching them to the highest trim levels.

To get a camera, “you have to pay $2,000 because it’s stuck with the leather seats and wood-grain steering wheel and heated and chilled cupholders,” she says. “It’s become a huge money maker.”

Adding an options package that includes rearview technology can indeed tack on several thousand dollars to the sticker price. For example, the starting price for the base trim level 2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S, which doesn’t include a rearview camera, is $20,995. That compares to the starting price of $25,875 for the higher-end trim level 2014 Passat 1.8T SE, which includes a rearview camera, multifunction in-dash display, leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum-alloy wheels and all-weather tires and other upgrades.

Ford’s suggested retail price for the base trim level 2105 Ford Fiesta S hatchback (1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission), which comes without a rearview camera system, is $15,680, compared with a $19,630 sticker price for the higher trim level 2014 Ford Fiesta Titanium hatchback, which bundles the camera system with such features as leather seats, heated mirrors and premium speakers.

4. Cameras are migrating to less expensive models and trim levels.
Once they’re separated from other features, rearview camera systems aren’t that expensive. NHTSA estimates that adding back-up cameras and displays that comply with the new regulations will cost manufacturers $132-$142 more per vehicle, or $43-$45 for vehicles with an existing screen that can display the required image field.

Perhaps in anticipation of the mandatory-equipment regulation, rearview systems are migrating down from manufacturers’ top models and trim levels. Close to half of all 2014 model-year cars include back-up cameras as standard equipment. Of 2,359 styles included in’s database of 2014 vehicles, 1,007 have back-up cameras as standard equipment.

Here is a complete list of 2014 model-year cars that have rearview cameras as standard equipment. It also shows the camera-equipped 2015 models on the market now.

Shoppers will find cameras as standard equipment in such moderately priced top sellers as the 2014 Honda Civic, including base LX trim level, and the base L trim level of the 2014 Toyota Camry.

So far, though, they haven’t found their way to several of the least expensive vehicles on the market, or the lowest trim levels of some popular cars. For example, you can find rearview cameras on some trim levels of the 2014 Toyota Corolla, but not on any 2014 Toyota Yaris. The thrifty 2014 Kia Rio has a rearview camera as standard equipment in the top-of-the-line SX trim level, but it’s not available (even as an option) on the base LX trim level. The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ, the model’s top trim level, has a rearview camera as standard equipment. But don’t look for it in the base LS trim level. You won’t find a camera in the diminutive 2014 Chevrolet Spark. Ditto for the budget-friendly 2014 Nissan Versa.

5. Adding a back-up camera is fairly easily.
You don’t need to buy a new car to get a back-up camera, though, or spend a lot to add one to an existing vehicle. Retailers such as CarToys, Best Buy and sell aftermarket systems for less than $15 for a bottom-of-the-line stand-alone camera for vehicles that have existing in-dash displays. A complete setup with a camera, transmitter and display can run up to $300.

One aftermarket system is the QuickVu, a $259 system with a rearview camera that mounts to the license plate holder and uses radio signals to transmit images from up to 50-60 feet in back of a vehicle to a 3.5-inch monitor mounted on the dash, and digital signals to turn the system on and off.

Installing a back-up camera on an existing car isn’t difficult. Some require only a screwdriver, while others require a drill to mount the camera into a rear bumper cover. Some aftermarket camera makers post videos on their Web sites to help DIYers with step-by-step set up instructions, and many auto parts retailers do installations.

6. Grime, weather and time of day can affect how a camera functions.
Whether they’re factory installed or aftermarket equipment, rearview cameras don’t need much more maintenance than a periodic wipe-down to clear away accumulated grime from the camera lens. In heavy rain or snow, auto company representatives and aftermarket camera sellers suggest checking before you drive off to make sure the lens isn’t obscured.

Some automakers have come up with clever ways to keep rearview cameras clean. Select 2014 Nissan Altima, 2014 Nissan Rogue and 2014 Nissan Murano models have a built-in rearview camera cleaning system that sprays water from a small tank to clean the lens, and then squirts a puff of air to dry it.

Even though back-up cameras can help prevent accidents, automakers and retailers warn drivers not to rely on them completely. Drivers should continue checking side and rearview mirrors, and look over their shoulder to see what’s in back of them. “There are certainly sometimes conditions where performance of the system might be not as optimal as in other conditions. That’s one reason we’ve had our systems focused on being an aid,” says Tony Baehner, Nissan’s chief spokesman on back-up camera technology. “If visibility is limited and it’s dark and you can’t see, a camera of any system is going to be sensitive to some of those.”

Manufacturers also instruct auto dealers to give anyone buying a new or used car with a back-up camera system a walkthrough of the system before they drive off the lot so they understand how it works.

7. Back-up cameras may prevent accidents, but they might not lead to lower insurance rates.
NHTSA and IIHS may be convinced that rearview systems save lives, but auto insurers could take decades to adjust rates for customers who use them, and one insurance industry representative says even if rates drop, the decrease could be tiny.

For insurers to give discounts, insurance actuaries would have to compare data from sufficiently large pools of vehicles with and without the systems to determine whether the cameras make a difference. That won’t happen any time soon, since NHTSA predicts it will be 2054 before all U.S. cars on the road have back-up systems, says Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group.

In addition, once all U.S. vehicles have rearview systems, the equipment is expected to save a relatively small number of lives — fewer than 70 a year — compared with tens of thousands of people killed in traffic accidents. As a result, any rate decrease could amount to “well under $1 per policy,” Worters says.

But, she says, “there may be fewer accidents because people back into less stuff, which could justify a discount on bodily injury, property damage and collision.”

Instead, technologies such as collision avoidance systems and telematics show more promise for providing trackable data that could lead to lower insurance rates, she says.

At least one insurer sees things a little differently. According to State Farm spokesman Sevag Sarkissian, back-up cameras could lead to lower car insurance rates if makes and models that have them wind up in fewer accidents. State Farm doesn’t provide discounts for specific vehicle safety equipment, but does collect claims information for specific makes and models, Sarkissian says. “To the extent a specific type of vehicle safety technology that is standard on a particular make and model of vehicle is effective in reducing the frequency and severity of crashes, it will be reflected in our claims data,” he says. As a result, particular makes and models may have lower insurance premiums, he says.

8. Back-up cameras are helpful for more than avoiding accidents. Wait until you see the camera technology that’s coming next.
Though intended to serve as safety devices, back-up cameras also can be used to help drivers do a better job of backing into a parking spot or hitching a trailer.

Nissan offers an around-view monitoring system on certain 2014 Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue and Versa Note models that comprises four cameras mounted on the license plate holder, front grille and side mirrors. The setup is designed to be a parking aid and has become a big selling point, according to Nissan. Customers “are typically wowed by the feature,” says Baehner, the Nissan manager. “Most of our research shows they are highly desired features.” Once you have them, they want them, he says.

Ford’s highly touted all-aluminum 2015 F-150 truck will also feature four cameras — on the front grille, rear bumper and side mirrors — for better maneuverability, with images transmitted to an 8-inch touchscreen in-dash display.

Aftermarket camera manufacturer Trail Ridge Technologies LLC, in Fort Collins, Colorado, is working on an upgraded, all-digital version of the company’s QuickVu device that will work over Bluetooth. The company is also developing an all-digital back-up camera system for trucks and RVs that will show more than 50 feet behind a vehicle, and can be used for hitching a trailer. Trail Ridge owner Bob Morain expects the updated systems to be out in summer 2014.

In coming model years, expect to see automakers adding other types of cameras to cars, SUVs and trucks for maneuverability, better aerodynamics and fun. At 2014 auto shows, Land Rover made a splash with a concept off-road vehicle with a hood-mounted camera that captures pictures of upcoming terrain and feeds them to a head-up display at the bottom of the windshield to create a 3-D map.

Also at 2014 auto shows, Nissan showed a concept version of the Rogue with a rearview “smart” mirror, an LCD display that doubles as a back-up camera. The company plans to offer the smart rearview mirror in Japan later in 2014, and in other markets at an as-yet-undisclosed date, according to company officials.

Tesla is experimenting with replacing sideview mirrors with cameras to improve vehicles’ aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. The company and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers have filed petitions with NHTSA seeking permission to use cameras in place of sideview mirrors, which are required under U.S. auto safety laws. Volkswagen recently got an exemption from European auto safety rules to road test 200 XL1 concept cars that have cameras instead of sideview mirrors. The goal: to see how sideview cameras work, and whether drivers like them, says Zorn, the company’s safety affairs general manager.

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Rear backup cameras to become standard on all vehicles

After years of delay, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced a final rule that would require automakers to install rear-visibility technology in all vehicles by May 2018. In many vehicles, this technology will take the form of a rear-view camera.

The aim of the rule is to expand a driver’s field of view to help her detect areas behind the vehicle in an effort to reduce death and injury resulting from backover incidents. NHTSA is requiring the view from the rear-visibility technology be a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. There are other requirements, including image size, linger time, response time, durability, and deactivation for these systems.

Each year, there are 210 individuals killed and 15,000 injured by vehcles backing over them, according to NHTSA. Thirty-one percent of those killed are children under 5 years old; 26 percent are people over age 70. Even when drivers use all three mirrors on their car, they cannot often see a blind zone several feet high directly behind.

NHTSA expects that 58 to 69 lives will be saved each year once the entire fleet is equipped with the rear-visibility technology announced in this final rule.

This rear-visibility rule has not been without controversy. Congress mandated it in 2008, but it had been repeatedly delayed. Last fall, in an effort to push the standard along, Consumer Reports, through its Consumers Union policy and advocacy arm, joined safety advocates in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation asking a court to order the agency to promptly issue the safety rule.

Ellen Bloom, senior director of federal policy at Consumers Union, said: “This rule is going to make a profound difference in public safety, especially for children. We thank the Administration for finalizing the rule, which will help save lives and prevent injuries. This day has been a long time coming, and we urge automakers to move quickly to beat the 2018 deadline.”

Many automakers have already been putting backup cameras in cars in response to consumer demand for this valued safety and convenience feature.

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AAP’s new car seat guidelines change rear facing & booster rules

Everything you thought you knew about car seats is wrong. Okay, not everything, but things have changed and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced new guidelines today. And it’s big news! The recommendation is that children rear face longer and they also changed the details for kids in boosters.

More from The Stir: 7 Rules for Buying & Installing a Car Seat

It was believed that 1 year and 20 pounds was the benchmark for forward facing babies in car seats, despite evidence elsewhere that that was still dangerously early. Now, hopefully, with new guidelines, parents and doctors can get on board and spread the word about the safest practices for children. Here are the details.

New Rear-facing Recommendation: Parents are to keep children rear-facing until 2 years old, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat as noted in the manual.

Safe Kids agrees. Two years is a goal easily met, considering even some of the lowest cost seats now rear-face until 40 pounds. When your baby outgrows their infant carrier, that is when you buy a convertible seat that rear-faces longer, not a forward-facing seat, which you can put upright up to 30 degrees when kids are bigger with better head control, often making them take up less space than infant seats.

New Boostering Recommendation: Children should ride in a belt-positioning booster (that means a high-back!) until they are at least 4 foot, 9 inches, AND 8-12 years old.

Jennifer Hoekstra, the Safe Kids Program Coordinator at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, shared:

In working with parents, we educate them beyond the law and share with them the best practice for keeping their child safe. We strongly agree with the new AAP policy and support the extended rear-facing limits as well as the new booster seat advice.

It’s best to keep children in their harnessed seat until they outgrow it, which is into elementary years with the height and weight of most convertible seats and even harness-to-booster seats these days. But they will outgrow it and go into a booster, and eventually they need to meet all points in a 5-point test before they’re ready to sit in a car’s seat without a booster of any kind. Remember that these belts are designed to fit an average adult. Best practice is also waiting until children are 80-100 pounds as well.

More from The Stir: The Forward-Facing Car Seat Controversy Continued

Beyond that, all kids need to stay out of the front until they’re at least 13 years old.

While 2 years or 8 years may now be the minimums, we don’t parent by minimums, do we? Buying a high quality (not necessarily high cost!) seat to start, after you do all your research to choose the best seat for your child, can easily help you meet these recommendations.

Make sure you’re using the car seats correctly, too. There’s a lot of intricacies for both harnessed seats and boosters. When in doubt, find a Safe Kids inspection station or event and get checked out by a tech. And hopefully more and more pediatricians, with these new recommendations, will be on board as well, and we can maybe put an end to vehicle related-injuries being the number one cause of death in kids ages 2-14.

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