411: ‘Black Boxes’ for Cars

Apr. 30th, 2014   /   ,

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Almost all new cars produced today come equipped with event data recorders (EDRs), or “black boxes;” the government hopes that by September of this year, every new car produced in the U.S. will have one.

The data on the EDRs can be extracted by a computer program, which can reveal a great deal of information about how, why, and under what circumstances a given car crashed.

So-called “black boxes” have been getting a lot of attention recently in light of missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370; as pundits speculate over what happened and where the plane is now, the fact remains that there’s only one piece of equipment that can tell us everything that transpired on board that plane: the flight recorder, more commonly referred to as the “black box” (even though it’s actually orange).

Flight data recorders have been used in planes for a long time; when retrieved, they can often reveal what was said during the last moments of a plane’s flight, what manual instructions the pilots entered into the airplane’s electronic system, etc. These can be extraordinarily helpful for determining causes of accidents, presence of misconduct, and much more. As we’ve learned with Flight 370, though, the flight recorder is only useful if you can find it. With cars, we hope to not have that problem.

EDRs will prove incredibly helpful in determining the causes of auto accidents. In issues of ambiguous liability, these smart devices will be able to answer a whole host of questions, thus allowing the bypass of “he said, she said” stage of the claim. EDRs will be able to reveal at what speed the car was traveling, whether the seat belt was being worn, etc. While the EDRs will only have recorded information for the few seconds surrounding the actual crash, the information about that crucial, short period of time is of tremendous value.

For example, let’s say someone is sitting in their car at a red light and, suddenly, a car comes barreling into the back of the stationary car. The driver of the stationary car could very well have sustained a serious injury, and would thus have a legal claim against the negligent driver who smashed into the back of his or her car. But what if the other driver claims that they were driving slowly, or that the driver in front was not actually stationary? While structural damage to a car’s body can tell a lot about the moment of collision, it can’t always pin-point specific numbers and it certainly can’t revel what was going on inside the cars at the time of the crash.

With an EDR, though, we’d be able to know whether or not the first car was indeed stationary, how fast the second car was driving, and whether or not the driver of the stationary car was wearing a seat belt, etc. All of these considerations are important in determining fault in an auto accident.

At the Law Offices of Aronberg, Aronberg & Green, we look forward to having EDRs commonplace on American streets; with more accountability among drivers, people will be safer when behind the wheel. Still, even when EDRs are universal, negligent drivers will still injure other motorists.  

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, please contact us for a free consultation by calling 561-266-9191 or emailing us at daronberg@aronberglaw.com

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