Backup Camera Economics



On Monday March 31, 2014, the Transportation Department issued a rule that will require rearview technology (legal speak for cameras) in all vehicles under 10,000 pounds. This includes almost all of the cars and SUV’s that you and I drive on a daily basis but motorcycles and trailers are exempt.

 Backup accidents have been estimated to cause 15,000 injuries and an average of 210 deaths a year. Because drivers are still involved the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that these cameras will save between 13 and 15 lives per year and prevent 1,125 injuries annually.

 Not an insignificant amount and when it’s your child that is saved, it is priceless. But we should still look at the economics.

 The government estimates that a rearview system costs between $132 and $142 per vehicle. OK not too bad on an average vehicle cost of $31,252, sort of a rounding error. But is that how we should look at it?

 With 15,600,000 new vehicle sales and using of cost of only $130 that is $2,028,000,000 in annual cost. At even 20 lives saved that is over $100,000,000 per life.   This evaluation sounds callous but it is something that our government does everyday. As a point of comparison, in 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency, when proposing new pollution regulations set the value of a life at $9.1 million, which was somewhat controversial at the time because during the George W. Bush administration the value was as low as $6.8 million. The controversy is because the higher the value, the more our government can demand that industry pay to save even one life. But here the difference is between $9.1 million and $100 million. (Say $100,000,000 and you may figure out why I used the picture that I did).

 I am not anti technology or anti kid. I actually have these backup cameras in two of my cars (and because of this I know how infrequently they are used). I am simply anti government regulation and this is one step waaay too far. If they start using $100,000,000 as the new value for a life I can only imagine the long list of regulations that will meet this new standard.


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