Problem: SUVs and light trucks are booming in popularity. Because these vehicles have limited visibility in the rear, parents are crushing their kids while backing up out of the driveway.
Solution: A government mandate for rear backup cameras. As usual, this will be a one-size-fits-all regulation, applying to small cars too — even though the problem is mainly limited to hulking SUVs and light trucks:
When pickups and multipurpose passenger vehicles strike a pedestrian in a backover crash, the incident is four times more likely to result in a fatality than if the striking vehicle were a passenger car.
But the real question will be whether this regulation will be another test case for the theory of risk compensation. Proponents of risk compensation argue that drivers accept a certain level of risk. Rather than use safety devices to minimize risk, they instead use them to drive more aggressively. For example, exploiting anti-lock brakes to go faster down a snowy highway. This behavior has been observed on almost every safety innovation, even safety belts and motorcycle helmets.
The theory of risk compensation predicts that backup cameras will at best have no affect, and at worse cause an increase in fatalities. Once the camera shows the “all clear”, will drivers still take the time to look back and properly assess their surroundings? Or will they just go flying out of the driveway?