Black Boxes and Car Accidents: Agency Determines how Data Used in Crash Analysis

We have all seen the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident. Whether the collision involved a large truck or a passenger car, even what would appear to be a minor accident could cause serious injuries.

Often, officials will study previous accidents to determine how they can reduce the chances of these accidents happening in the future. Sometimes it is necessary to modify a roadway or increase traffic controls to help make roadways safer.

Many automakers are also concerned with their vehicles' safety ratings. They perform extensive tests to see how a vehicle would perform in the event of an accident. This information is often used by consumers in the market for a new car or truck.

Several automakers are going a step further with their safety analysis. They have started to install black boxes in vehicles. The devices would record information about the vehicles performance in the event of a crash. Data could then be examined to see if the car or truck had any issues that may have contributed to the collision.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently passed a rule that mandates what sort of information the black boxes must examine. Engine speed, the impact of the crash, any steering movements made as well as the time it took for an airbag to deploy must all be measured.

This may present new challenges to those involved in car accidents. Privacy experts are concerned that this information could be used against owners of the vehicles. Insurers may request this information and study it to determine if the driver played any role in a crash, which could make it more difficult to recover compensation for injuries.

Source: New York Times "N.H.T.S.A. Sets Standards for Data Collected From Black Boxes in Cars" Matthew L. Wald, August 17, 2012.

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