Many people around the U.S. are becoming familiar with the term “black box” and most likely associate the technology with airplanes and airplane crashes. But what the average person does not know, however, is that they likely have a “black box” in their personal automobile that records many of their actions and the car’s functions. This is not new technology. It has been used to monitor airbags for nearly two decades in passenger automobiles. In fact, nearly 96 percent of the automobiles produced last year include “black boxes,” or Event Data Recorders (EDRs).
EDRs function much the same way as a “black box” on an airplane. Although the device is constantly recording data, it does not transmit the data, and only saves a segment of data preceding a crash. The installation of these devices has been voluntary by car manufacturers and has gone largely unnoticed by the average consumer and unregulated.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is pushing to mandate that all new vehicles come equipped with EDRs. Just this year, NHTSA initiated Final Ruling 49 CFR Part 563, which set minimum standards as to the data that must be recorded if auto manufacturers choose to include an EDR in their vehicles. Prior to these standardized rules, auto makers were left to determine what data was collected, how they collected it, and how it was transferred off the EDR.
Final Ruling 49 CFR Part 563 sets a minimum requirement for crash data that must be recorded by an EDR. Some of the minimum requirements are that the EDR record the vehicle’s speed just prior to impact, throttle and brake application, seat belt use, and airbag deployment. Also included in the new standards is a requirement that if auto manufacturers choose to place an EDR in a vehicle they must disclose this fact in the vehicle’s owner’s manual.
Although the new standards address many of the issues regarding what EDRs must record, many questions remain as to what the data can be used for, and who is entitled to collect the data. To date, there is not a national standard as to who the data belongs to and what a permissible use of the data is. Many states are taking matters into their own hands and passing laws to clarify who is entitled to retrieve the data. Fourteen states have passed laws that deem the EDR data as the vehicle owner’s property, however, law enforcement officers and those involved in civil litigation can petition a court for an order granting access to the data.
There is no requirement in other states for a court order for third parties to access the data. One of the greatest unanswered questions surrounding the rise in EDR prevalence is “what can the data be used for?” As one can imagine, auto makers, law enforcement agencies, insurance companies and individuals involved in civil litigation all potentially want this valuable crash data for various reasons.
Many questions remain unanswered about EDRs, but what is clear is that NHTSA is attempting to standardize the use of EDRs and what data they record. With today’s technology, there is no reason that crash data not be recorded in a standard format that is easy to access. This is certainly a step in the right direction. Regardless of who is entitled to access the data, or what that data can be used for, it is important to preserve the EDR after an accident. The clues needed to piece together what occurred in a collision are often times located on the EDR. For this reason it is imperative to preserve the EDR after an accident and retrieve the data as the law permits. If you need more information on this subject, contact Evan Allen, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury/Product Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Evan.Allen@beasleyallen.com.
Source: New York Times
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.