You may have heard about “black box” recorders in news reports about airline crashes. You may not realize that those same types of event data recorders, or EDRs, are found today in most passenger cars.77
These devices can make a variety of informative data available after a car accident. This information can be downloaded and used to establish how and why a car accident happened as well as who was really responsible for the crash.
Examining black box contents from each car involved in a crash has become a crucial part of accident investigations conducted by Powers & Santola, LLP. To learn about how we use EDR information to seek just compensation for clients in Albany, Syracuse and throughout New York, call or connect with us online. We can provide a free consultation about your case.
What Are “Black Boxes” in Passenger Cars?
If activated by a crash, EDRs record certain information about the operation of the vehicles they are in. The information can corroborate findings from traditional crash investigation techniques. It can also provide information about a crash that cannot be obtained through traditional methods.
EDRs are in almost all late-model cars. However, they are not yet mandatory. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed making EDRs standard equipment in all U.S. cars. The NHTSA has already passed a rule that standardizes the data collected by black boxes and how it can be retrieved.
In passenger cars, EDRs are typically tied into the airbag system. They record information if an airbag deploys. After most crashes, the data can be downloaded with specialized computer software. In some cases, EDR data does not survive a crash.
As of model year 2013, all EDRs must record:
- Speed of the vehicle prior to a crash
- Change – including maximum change – in forward crash speed
- Time when the maximum change in forward crash speed occurred
- How far the accelerator pedal was pressed at the time of crash
- Whether the brake was applied at impact
- Ignition cycle at the time of the crash
- Whether the driver was using a seat, lap or shoulder belt
- Whether the front air bag warning lamp was on
- Driver’s side front air bag deployment time
- Front passenger’s front air bag deployment time
- Number of crash events and time between the first two events
- Whether the EDR completed recording tasks.
Some higher-end vehicles have advanced EDRs. They may record such data as:
- Sideways acceleration
- Forward or rearward acceleration
- Engine speed
- Driver steering input
- Front passenger seat, lap or shoulder belt status
- Engagement of electronic stability control system
- Antilock brake system activity
- Side air bag deployment time for driver and right-front passenger
- Seat track positions for driver and right-front passenger
- Occupant size and position for driver and right-front passengers.
EDRs also have automatic crash notification systems that are designed to alert emergency responders – police and medical personnel – when crashes occur.
EDR Data and Car Accident Investigations
The information collected by a passenger vehicle black box belongs to the vehicle owner. However, police or investigators can access the data with the owner’s consent, or they can obtain a court order to gain access if the owner refuses.
In a study of EDRs and their use, the NHTSA states, “The results of the engineering analysis show that EDR data can objectively report real-world crash data and therefore be a powerful investigative and research tool, by providing very useful information to crash reconstruction experts and vehicle safety researchers.” However, the NHTSA cautions that EDR data should be used with other evidence.
The car accident investigators of Powers & Santola, LLP, use data from a car’s black box device as part of a broader accident investigation, which may include a full accident reconstruction. Gaining access to this data and other information before it is lost due to a wrecked car being repaired or scrapped is crucial. This is why we advise car accident victims to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after a motor vehicle accident.
Allow Car Accident Lawyers in Albany and Syracuse Investigate Your Car Accident
If you have been injured in a car accident in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in New York State, speak to a car accident lawyer at Powers & Santola, LLP. They can conduct the investigation required to determine the true cause of your crash and who should be held accountable for your injuries and other losses. Contact us today for a free legal consultation about your case and the compensation you are due.
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