Mar 17

Using an Automobile’s Black Box After a Serious Car Accident

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We’ve heard about finding the “black box” when there is an airplane crash, but can a “black box” be the answers to questions after a car accident? The answer may surprise you.

Believe it or not, about 60 percent of vehicles contain “event data recorders,” or EDRs, which work more or less like black boxes on airplanes. Under a federal rule, all vehicles that include electronic data recorders must collect 15 types of specific information beginning in 2013, including the following:

  • The speed at which the vehicle was traveling
  • How far the accelerator pedal was pressed
  • Whether the brake was applied
  • Whether the driver was wearing a safety belt
  • Whether the front airbag warning light was on

Safety advocates say they provide impartial information that is crucial to researchers studying ways to prevent future car accidents, as well as manufacturers looking to improve performance.

Black boxes in cars are not one physical box. Instead, data are collected by chips and sensors throughout the works of a vehicle. That information gets downloaded onto a hard disk. Typically, the disk will contain 5 to 6 seconds’ worth of information prior to the crash.

This information could be crucial after a car accident because eyewitnesses can’t tell whether the driver failed to put his foot down on the brake, or whether the brake system itself failed. Even drivers themselves are often confused after a traumatic event such as a crash or fire.

EDR information belongs to the owner of the vehicle. That’s why insurance companies and manufacturers will sometimes offer to buy what appears to be a complete wreck after a bad accident.

This information can also be helpful in the prosecution of bad drivers. For example, recently a Florida appellate court threw out a claim made by the defendant in a vehicular manslaughter case that he should have been able to block police from examining his vehicle’s EDR data. The vehicle’s information was helpful in convicting him after the serious car accident.

For more information about this subject, visit the article on

For information about your rights after a Florida car accident, motorcycle accident or other personal injury matter, click here to meet with Personal Injury Attorney Matthew Noyes. His Clearwater personal injury law firm–Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes–has been caring for clients throughout Tampa Bay since 1955. Call today for a free consultation.

Remember, insurance companies have attorneys looking out for their best interest after your car accident, SO SHOULD YOU!

  1. Leisa Dreps 7 Apr 2011 | reply

    It’s a good idea for knowing the cause of an accident. But once again, privacy has to be sacrificed for security. Anyway, if they can improve this without sacrificing anything, I’m all for it. Otherwise.

  2. Auto Transport 25 May 2010 | reply

    It kind of feels a bit like big brother, having these things in cars but as long as the make a difference for the better then I see no real fault in them.

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