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How can black boxes, other saf...

How can black boxes, other safety features reduce car accidents?

  • December 17, 2012

By now, you have probably heard that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received permission to move forward with final rulemaking that will require all new passenger vehicles to come equipped with black boxes, or event data recorders (EDRs).

Event data recorders record the seconds immediately after a car accident. In the future, they must take down at least 15 data points, including driver speed, airbag deployment and brake pressure. Investigators will have access to this data and be able to use the data to determine what caused an accident, who is liable and how such accidents can be prevented in the future.

The NHTSA is a key player in car safety improvements. Like with black boxes, it created a safety regulation in 2007 to require electronic stability control (ESC) on all passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks. The result was promising. According to an NHTSA study, ESC saved more than 2,200 lives between 2008 and 2010. ESC uses a computer to brake individual wheels and allow drivers to maintain control of a car in hazardous conditions.

While black boxes cannot prevent car accidents, the data from EDRs can lead to the creation of life-saving technology like ESC.

EDRs also provide helpful information for car accident lawsuits. If, for example, speeding was the cause of your accident, the car’s black box will determine how fast the at-fault driver was driving, thus helping to prove his or her guilt. EDRs are the ultimate witness — they provide objective data and their memories do not fade over time.

Source: The Detroit News, “NHTSA gets White House OK to mandate vehicle ‘black boxes,'” David Shepardson, Dec. 6, 2012

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