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From Products Liability Law Daily, September 30, 2013

NHTSA upgrades NCAP to include rearview video system recommendations

By Joseph Bichl

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has upgraded the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), which provides comparative information on the safety performance and features of new vehicles to assist consumers with their vehicle purchasing decisions, to include recommendations on motor vehicle models that contain rearview video systems (NHTSA Notice, 78 FR 59866, September 30, 2013). The agency’s upgrade will substitute rearview video systems for electronic stability control (ESC) as a Recommended Advanced Technology Feature (RATF) on its website. Because ESC is now required equipment on vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, the agency indicated that it was no longer necessary to include ESC as an RATF.

Two-phase implementation. The upgrade will be implemented in two phases, according to the rule. In the first phase, the agency will begin immediately to list rearview video systems in the Safety Features section of for each vehicle model that has this safety feature available. In the second phase, as soon as the agency is able to verify that the vehicle model has a rearview video system meeting certain basic criteria—sufficient image view, size, and response time—the agency will recognize those vehicle models as having an RATF and post the information on the website.

According to NHTSA, the two-phase approach enables it to minimize the amount of time needed to begin providing information to consumers. In addition, this approach “maximizes the usefulness of the consumer information in the long run by ensuring that the rearview video systems listed as a Recommended Advanced Technology Feature are systems that are designed to address the backover safety problem,” the agency stated.

By including rearview video systems as a recommended technology in NCAP, the agency maintained that consumers will receive important safety information regarding the risks associated with back overs and the available vehicle models that provide an effective countermeasure that can assist the driver in avoiding back-over crashes. In addition, the NHTSA stated that including rearview video systems in NCAP would provide manufacturers recognition for “designing and installing such systems that can help drivers avoid back-over crashes and incentivize further installation of them.”

Rearview safety standard. The agency emphasized that this rule is separate from its ongoing efforts to amend Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 111, “Rearview Mirrors,” to mandate rearview video systems in all motor vehicles, pursuant to the requirements of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007. NHTSA clearly stated that this rule is not a “resolution to the … rulemaking action to amend FMVSS No. 111, it does not replace the agency’s efforts in that area, nor is this document an alternative to completing that rulemaking process.”

The changes to the New Car Assessment Program are effective September 30, 2013.

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