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Black Box Car Data and Why it Matters

Black Box Car Data and Why it Matters

by | May 30, 2023 | Car Accidents

What is in Black Box Car Data and Why It Matters

Most people have heard of a black box in an airplane, whether from fictional film scenes or actual news coverage of tragic plane crashes. But did you know that cars also have similar black boxes? An event data recorder (EDR) is the device in most vehicles that records driving data. Your car likely has an EDR, colloquially referred to as a black box, and the data inside may be helpful if you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident.  The Law Offices of Michael Payne has experience with black box data and it’s relationship to car accidents.  You can contact us to discuss you black box data concern or car accident.

Which Cars Have Black Boxes?

In 1994, most American car manufacturers began installing black boxes in their vehicles, and more than 95% of new cars made since 2014 include a black box as a standard feature. If your vehicle is less than ten years old, there’s a good chance it has an EDR device. Most are located under the steering panel or in the center of the car within the console, and they are installed to be difficult to access and protected from the impact of a crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been using the data collected by EDRs since the aughts. The purpose of a car’s black box goes beyond simply providing information about the crash itself. The data from these devices is also intended to be used to avoid future crashes.

Shifts in Black Box Data Collection

Automobile regulators recently announced that they intend to require manufacturers to increase the amount of data collected by black boxes in cars. The NHTSA requires that five seconds of data prior to a crash be recorded but has been pushing for 20 seconds and a higher frequency rate. These changes would allow researchers and anyone else needing access to the black box data to have access to additional information, including more potential evidence of collision causes.  Call us at 888 964-1530 for a free consultation regarding your car accident.

The increase in self-driving cars and vehicles with advanced driver assistance tools has contributed to the need for further data collection, but this is a change that has the potential to benefit drivers of all vehicle types.

What Data is Collected by EDRs?

Car black boxes can provide essential data about collisions that can help determine the circumstances and even the cause of an accident. Information collected by car black boxes will vary between manufacturers, but it often includes:

  • Speed and speed changes
  • Throttle percentage
  • Steering angles
  • Acceleration
  • Deceleration and braking
  • Airbag deployments
  • Passengers
  • Seatbelt usage

This information can tell crash investigators what happened moments before the collision. It also serves as a way for vehicle manufacturers to identify potential mechanical or electrical malfunctions within their own systems.

Accessing the Black Box Data

In addition to being purposefully difficult to access, car black boxes also make retrieving data challenging. A special device is needed to download the data from the EDR. Who has legal access to your car’s black box data? The Driver Privacy Act of 2015 made black box data the property of the vehicle owner. In California, this data can only be downloaded by someone other than the car’s owner in the following specific circumstances:

  • With a court order or search warrant
  • If the vehicle owner gives consent
  • For the manufacturer’s safety research
  • When repairs or maintenance are required

The police might be able to obtain a search warrant for your car’s black box data in cases involving vehicular manslaughter, DUI, or certain other serious crimes involving your car. More commonly, however, data is sought from the EDR when a personal injury lawsuit is initiated.

Having assistance from a car accident lawyer can make obtaining your car’s black box data much simpler, and Michael D. Payne has extensive experience with car crash litigation and building personal injury cases for his clients.  Contact us for a free consultation

Why Should You Access the EDR Data?

The data contained in the EDR may be crucial to showing fault in your car accident case. This is especially true if the facts of the accident are being questioned, such as when conflicting reports of the accident exist or when there are no witnesses to corroborate your version of events. Proving fault in a California car accident is important because the state uses a comparative negligence system. This means that the person who is found to be at fault for the accident will not be able to recover full compensation for their injuries.

Comparative negligence dictates that each party’s compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault they hold. For example, if a driver is awarded $20,000 in damages but determined to be 80% at fault for the accident, they will only be able to receive $4,000 of the awarded compensation. This is why black box data is so important. Having evidence that unequivocally shows speed, braking, and steering data can be indispensable to a car accident case.

The black box in your car is intended to be beneficial to you, but it is not always easy to use the data to your advantage. Michael D. Payne’s familiarity with California law and car accident litigation means he can guide you through the process to reach the best possible outcome. With over 20 years of experience and expertise that has earned him an appearance on CNN, Mr. Payne is the advocate you want in your corner for your personal injury case.  You can reach us at 888 964-1530 for a free consultation or email us.