Just Like an Airplane, Your Car Probably Has a ” Black-Box ”

We’ve all heard about the ” black-box ” carried on commercial airplanes: the flight data recorders that are often used by crash investigators. But many people don’t know that they too have a black box-in their car. If you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident, your car and the other car may each have a record of what happened. These devices, known as Event Data Recorders (EDRs), vary from one carmaker to another. Typically they record the last eight to fifteen seconds before a crash, and are integrated into the computer system that controls deployment of the car’s airbags. They can record information such as the vehicle’s speed, whether the brakes were deployed or not and whether the occupants were wearing their seat belts. They can also indicate the severity of the crash, by recording the change in the car’s velocity upon impact. The devices have been part of GM cars since the mid-1990s and cars from Ford, Nissan and Toyota since the mid-2000s. It’s estimated that around 80 million cars now have these EDR systems. Because they’re integrated into the car’s onboard computer system, they cannot be easily removed or disabled. But who controls the information these EDRs contain? That question is still being answered in many states. While some states regulations have established that only the car’s owner can authorize the release of the information, others-including Louisiana-do not yet have laws on the subject. This means that following a crash, a mechanic could download information about the crash-particularly if the vehicle was “totaled” and is now in the hands of the insurance company. EDR data was used by Toyota to show that in many cases when drivers claimed their cars had accelerated despite applying the brakes, they had in fact been putting their foot on the accelerator. Thus, EDR data can be used against the injured driver, if the driver’s recollection of how the accident differs from the manufacturer. Following an accident of any kind, it’s important to preserve evidence of what happened before it is lost, and the information contained in a car’s EDR is just another example of this evidence. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to a personal injury attorney if you are involved in a Louisiana car accident, to ensure that the legal rights to “black box” data are protected, and to obtain compensation for damages sustained in the accident.