[Federal Register Volume 61, Number 117 (Monday, June 17, 1996)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 30585-30588]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 96-15325]


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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. 96- 53; Notice 1]
RIN 2127-AG41

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Rear View Mirrors

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 

ACTION: Request for Comments.


SUMMARY: NHTSA has granted a petition for rulemaking from Mr. Dee 
Norton, who petitioned the Agency to require convex cross view mirrors 
on the left rear top corner of the cargo box of stepvan and walk-in 
style delivery and service trucks. NHTSA's analysis of the petition and 
the backup accident data concludes that this particular solution is 
only one of many possible accident prevention measures. While it is 
possible that mirrors can be a cost-effective solution, no performance 
specifications for these mirrors yet exist. The agency has research 
underway on this and other means to reduce such deaths and injuries, 
particularly for children less than five years old and the elderly, who 
both are over represented in the fatality numbers. The agency believes 
it is premature to begin rulemaking until we obtain information on the 
experience of fleets which have installed rear cross-view mirrors and 
ask other key questions.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before October 15, 1996.

ADDRESSES: Comments must refer to the docket and notice numbers cited 
at the beginning of this notice and be submitted to: Docket Section, 
Room 5109, NHTSA, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590. It 
is requested, but not required, that 10 copies of the comments be 
provided. The Docket Section is open on weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For nonlegal issues: Mr. Jere Medlin, 
Office of Crash Avoidance Standards, NHTSA, 400 Seventh Street, SW, 
Washington, D.C. 20590. Mr. Medlin's telephone number is: (202) 366-
5276. His facsimile number is (202) 366-4329. For legal issues: Mr. 
Paul Atelsek, Rulemaking Division, Office of Chief Counsel, NHTSA, 400 
Seventh Street, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20590. Mr. Atelsek's telephone 
number is (202) 366-5260, and his FAX number is (202) 366-3820. Please 
note that written comments should be sent to the Docket Section rather 
than faxed to the above contact persons.


I. Background

    By letter dated March 20, 1995, Mr. Dee Norton of Seattle, 
Washington petitioned the agency to issue an amendment for 49 CFR 
571.111, (Standard No. 111) to require convex cross view mirrors on the 
left rear top corner of the cargo box of stepvan and walk-in style 
delivery and service trucks. Mr. Norton's petition arose out of a 
desire to prevent the kind of fatal crash that caused the death of his 
grandson. C.J. Norton, Mr. Norton's grandson, died on May 18, 1994, 
when he was struck and backed over by a diaper delivery service truck 
that was backing from a stall in an apartment complex parking lot. Mr. 
Norton stated in his petition that the truck was equipped with side-
mounted rearview mirrors required by Standard No. 111, but that those 
mirrors did not provide the driver with a view of the area immediately 
behind the truck. Mr. Norton stated that, without looking behind the 
truck, the driver backed up and struck his grandson, not knowing that 
the child was in the way.
    Mr. Norton tried unsuccessfully to get Washington State to enact a 
law to require delivery vehicles to use rear-mounted cross view 
mirrors. His state believes that federal law prohibits it from issuing 
any laws that are different from federal laws on the subject of 
mirrors. As a consequence, Mr. Norton petitioned NHTSA for changes to 
Standard No. 111.
    The agency has reviewed the circumstances associated with the 
petitioner's desired solution, and notes that the agency has been 
conducting research to investigate the feasibility of equipping motor 
vehicles with cost-effective countermeasures to assist drivers in more 
safely carrying out backing, lane change and merging maneuvers 
including the maneuvers described by the petitioner. The objectives are 
to determine the performance of one or more feasible countermeasures 
and to define specifications in performance terms without constraining 
the solutions to particular devices or technologies.
    NHTSA has been conducting and continues to conduct research to 
determine alternative countermeasures for preventing backing crashes. 
This research has focused on external auditory alarms ( ``An Audible 
Automobile Back-up Pedestrian Warning Device--Development and 
Evaluation'', DOT-HS-802-083, November 1976) as well as in-vehicle 
warning systems and mirrors. External alarms have been found to be 
ineffective deterrents for very young children, who do not understand 
the sound and may even be attracted to the noise. In-vehicle warning 
systems that have been studied provide drivers with in-vehicle alarms 
triggered by the detection of nearby objects detected by the rear 
facing sensors (typically ultrasonic, radar, or infrared). The agency 
recently tested six rear object detection systems and found that object 
detection technology is still in the early stages of its development 
(``Hardware Evaluation Of Heavy Truck Side And Rear Object Detection 
Systems'', SAE Paper No. 951010, W. Riley Garrott, Mark A. Flick, and 
Elizabeth N. Mazzae) . One other system, a unit that costs over $900 
and uses microwave radar technology is in voluntary use in some school 
districts, to detect a moving child in front of a stationary school 
bus. The agency's tests (``An Evaluation of Electronic Pedestrian 
Detection Systems For School Buses'', SAE Paper No. 960518, Scott A. 
Johnston, Elizabeth N. Mazzae, and W. Riley Garrott) show that such 
systems were intended as a supplement, not a replacement, for cross 
view mirrors and were designed to work only on stationary vehicles. The 
agency will continue to evaluate the effectiveness and performance of 
these types of countermeasures as new technology becomes available.
    Used on certain commercial and recreational vehicles, rear video 
cameras can provide the driver with a view of the blind spot, but the 
expense of these systems limits their use. Some vehicles use rear 
mounted convex mirrors to help the driver see objects and pedestrians 
in the area directly behind the vehicle that is not covered by the 
currently required mirror systems. However, the small image size in the 
mirror, the distortion of the image, and the task of using the left 
side mirror to see the image in the rear mounted mirror may make it 
difficult for drivers to reliably detect objects and small pedestrians, 
especially at night and in adverse weather. The agency is initiating a 
research program to collect data on the extent of obstructed view areas 
behind commercial and passenger vehicles and to determine the extent to 
which low cost mirror systems can improve the driver's view in that 
area. It may take two years to complete this research, data collection, 
and analysis. Also, the agency has requested information from some 
commercial fleet owners to gain insight on the extent of

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the backing problem and to learn of the experiences that some have had 
with rear-mounted convex mirrors. As the agency learns more about the 
extent of this safety problem and potential solutions, it will be in a 
better position to consider whether rulemaking to mandate performance-
oriented requirements for preventing backup crashes is appropriate.
    Additionally, for the past two years the agency has enlisted the 
assistance of the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and its 
National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to gather data on the 
involvement of children with motor vehicles in nonhighway injuries and 
fatalities. This effort is not yet completed. When it is completed in 
1997, the Agency may be able to estimate the size of the safety problem 
better than it can today.
    The agency finds that the State of Washington has misinterpreted 
how federal preemption affects the ability of the state to act. It is 
true that under 49 U.S.C. 30103(b), no State may enact or continue in 
effect a standard covering the same aspect of performance as an FMVSS 
unless it is identical to the FMVSS. However, there is no federal 
requirement addressing the visibility of the area directly and 
immediately behind the vehicle in question. Thus, NHTSA does not concur 
with the State of Washington's conclusion that the preemption clause 
prohibits Washington, or any other state, from requiring the use of 
rear-mounted cross view mirrors on any motor vehicle. While it is true 
that nonidentical state standards would become preempted if NHTSA did 
adopt a performance requirement for cross view mirrors, NHTSA would 
certainly consider the existing state laws in doing so.
    Thus, it is possible for the petitioner and others to seek 
solutions at the state level, and those solutions can have greater 
immediate effect than any Federal action. Because States regulate 
vehicles-in-use and the actions of drivers, a solution at the State 
level of adding rear-mounted cross view mirrors to delivery service 
vehicles and restrictions on how delivery service operations are 
conducted, would affect all existing subject vehicles in states that 
chose to implement such regulations. A Federal rule only would affect 
new trucks once implemented and could take more than twenty-five years 
(ref. ``Updated Vehicle Survivability and Travel Mileage Schedules'', 
DOT-HS-808-339, November ,1995) before the full benefits would be 
realized because of the slow rate of fleet replacement. This study 
showed that 12% of light trucks were still in use 25 years later.

II. Questions on Which Comment is Requested

A. For Fleet Users of Rear Cross-View Mirrors

    1. Have your vehicles' accident rates in backing incidents 
decreased since you equipped your fleet with rear cross view mirrors? 
Please provide any available data on your backing crash rates.
    2. What percentage of your backing incidents occur off the public 
    3. Under what conditions, if any, are these mirrors difficult to 
use or perhaps even unusable?
    a. Dark days?
    b. Rainy days?
    c. Shadows behind the vehicle?
    d. At night with the backup lamps?
    e. Other adverse conditions; please describe.
    4. What comments, if any, have your drivers made regarding their 
use of rear cross view mirrors? Are they generally in favor of them? 
Please explain.
    5. To what extent do your drivers rely on cross view mirrors while 
backing? Should the driver directly inspect the area behind the truck 
before entering the vehicle and backing?
    6. What depth of field (behind the vehicle) can these mirrors 
provide? Does this need to be increased to allow adequate reaction time 
when backing?
    7. Would a depth of field of six feet be practicable and 
economically feasible on such mirrors?
    8. Is image distortion a problem on existing rear cross-view 
    9. Are reductions in insurance premiums available for vehicles 
equipped with rear cross view mirrors? How far do any such reductions 
go in offsetting the cost of the mirror and its installation?

(The next three questions are for fleet operators that have installed 
rear cross-view mirrors.)

    10. Why did your fleet install rear cross-view mirrors?
    11. What specific mirrors were used and on what specific vehicles 
were these mirrors installed?
    12. What were the costs of the mirrors and their installation?

B. General

    1. NHTSA must analyze both the safety benefits associated with new 
or added regulations and their costs. The agency therefore requests 
cost estimates for rear cross-view mirrors expressed as the increase in 
the cost of a new truck (say a full-size commercial van, a step-van, 
high cube van, or straight truck ) with such a mirror installed. Are 
these costs significantly different for the installation of the mirrors 
on existing vehicles?
    2. Do these mirrors present any practical problems, such as:
    a. Are there any trucks up to 26,000 pounds GVWR that cannot 
accommodate such mirrors?
    b. Are there loading dock interference problems?
    c. Are there significant driver training changes?
    d. Are there mirror vibration problems or maintenance problems?
    e. Are some designs of rear cross-view mirrors vastly superior in 
performance to others?
    f. Are depth of field or other parameters on these mirrors in need 
of improvement?
    g. Are there any alternatives to these mirrors that are as 
inexpensive as the mirrors desired by the petitioner?

III. Procedures for Filing Comments

    Interested persons are invited to submit comments on this request 
for comment. It is requested but not required that 10 copies be 
submitted. Comments must not exceed 15 pages in length. (49 CFR 
553.21). Necessary attachments may be appended to these submissions 
without regard to the 15-page limit. This limitation is intended to 
encourage commenters to detail their primary arguments in a concise 
    If a commenter wishes to submit certain information under a claim 
of confidentiality, three copies of the complete submission, including 
purportedly confidential business information, should be submitted to 
the Chief Counsel, NHTSA, at the street address given above, and seven 
copies from which the purportedly confidential information has been 
deleted should be submitted to the Docket Section. A request for 
confidentiality should be accompanied by a cover letter setting forth 
the information specified in the agency's confidential business 
information regulation. (49 CFR Part 512).
    All comments received before the close of business on the comment 
closing date indicated above for the proposal will be considered, and 
will be available for examination in the docket at the above address 
both before and after that date. To the extent possible, comments filed 
after the closing date will also be considered. Comments received after 
the comment due date will be considered as suggestions for any future 
rulemaking action. Comments on the request for comment will be 
available for inspection in the docket. The NHTSA will continue to file 
relevant information as it becomes available in the docket after the 

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date, and it is recommended that interested persons continue to examine 
the docket for new material.
    Those persons desiring to be notified upon receipt of their 
comments in the rule's docket should enclose a self-addressed, stamped 
postcard in the envelope with their comments. Upon receiving the 
comments, the docket supervisor will return the postcard by mail.

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 322, 30111, 30115, 30117, and 30166; 
delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.50.

    Issued on: June 12, 1996.
Barry Felrice,
Associate Administrator for Safety Performance Standards.
[FR Doc. 96-15325 Filed 6-14-96; 8:45 am]