A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

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Proposed Rear-view Camera Mandate Would Cost Up To $57.2 Million Per Life Saved

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to require cameras on all new vehicles to save 26 to 69 lives

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it hopes to complete a rule that would require rear view cameras in the back of vehicles, which could cost as much as $57.2 million per life saved. 

Equipping all vehicles with the rearview camera with interior mirror display would cost between $1.1 billion to $2.57 billion and is estimated to result in 26 to 69 "total fatalities avoided," according to NHTSA documents.

"On a costs-benefits analysis, this makes no sense whatsoever," said Shirley Ybarra, a senior transportation policy analyst for the Reason Foundation. "I'm sorry when people back over their children. In terms of costs, however, this is just ridiculous. This is just another example of the Obama nanny-state."

Magna Electronics Technology Inc. in Grand Blanc Township is getting local and state tax incentives to produce the rear view camera technology. The company received a five-year, $2.1 million deal in 2011 with the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Magna Electronics plans to invest $64.8 million over the next five years in Michigan to expand the plant in Grand Blanc Township. Magna is the largest manufacturer of rear view camera technology in the country.

In addition to the issue about tax dollars being spent, many have questioned how far federal authority will reach when mandating laws if the threshold is to save a few dozen lives. 

For example, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 20 children per year drown in buckets. Other groups estimate the annual deaths of people in buckets at 30. But should the federal government outlaw buckets?

Leon Drolet, chairman of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said mandating motorists wear helmets in vehicles would save many more lives than a rear view camera.

"It's not about saving lives," Drolet said. "The cost is going to encourage some people to drive a less safe automobile. People will drive less safe cars for longer because they can't afford the 'regulation-mobile.' If it were about saving lives, you'd have to be able to measure how many lives are lost by people driving older cars. You are feeding the political process and lobbying process that created this regulation. They are the clear winners. There are tragedies that happen all the time. They are terrible. But tragedies make bad laws."

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See also:

Experts Say CAFE Still Kills Despite Congressional Support

Milton Friedman: Morality and Capitalism - Federal mandates on vehicles