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Coming Soon: Eyes in the Back of Your Head?

The ubiquity of cameras has changed the way we drive. Cameras have been used to document the scenes of traffic collisions, and to take a photo of your smiling face as you cruise through a red light at certain intersections. They can also be used help you to avoid obstacles—including people!—behind your vehicle when you back up. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reports that the federal government is proposing the mandatory installation of rear-view camera systems in all new vehicles, starting in late 2014.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that an average of 292 deaths and nearly 18,000 injuries occur annually as a result of "back-over crashes." Children (44% of the fatalities in such incidents) and those over the age of 70 (33% of the fatalities) are the most common victims. These incidents are especially distressing for those involved because it's often a member of the driver's immediate family who is injured or killed. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that rear-view cameras would "help drivers see into those blind zones directly behind vehicles to make sure it is safe to back up," substantially putting an end to these easily preventable tragedies.

Camera systems display a view to the rear of the vehicle on a dashboard video display. Some displays also feature a chime that alerts the driver if an object is within the camera's field of view. We strongly recommend these alarm-equipped systems, as they provide assistance even if the driver momentarily glances away from the video monitor.

If you don't have a system in your vehicle, aftermarket options are available for under $300. So this holiday season, instead of purchasing a point-and-shoot camera "just for fun," get a camera for your car instead. You might just give the gift of life to someone you love!