Black Box in Your Car Tells a Tale

CARS ARE NOW EQUIPPED WITH A“ BLACK BOX ” THAT RECORDS DATA.  THIS DATA CAN BE USED TO PROVE WHO WAS AT FAULT IN AN ACCIDENT.

We all know that a commercial airplane is equipped with a black box. The black box records data about a flight. After a plane crash, that data is used by investigators to determine what caused the crash.

Less well-known is the fact that a car is now often equipped with a black box. Technically, these devices are known as “event data recorders.” The data that a black box monitors include a car’s speed, location, time of use, and the number of passengers.

In the event of a traffic accident, there may be no witnesses to what happened, other than the drivers involved. Each driver will obviously be biased in favor of his own story. Even if there are neutral witnesses, witnesses’ accounts often differ.

The beauty of a black box is that it provides objective data. If the black box indicates a car was traveling 95 miles an hour, you know that the driver was speeding.

During a personal injury lawsuit, a victim can obtain the other car’s black box data, in order to establish negligence.

Recently, there have been efforts in Congress and the New Jersey Legislature to restrict the use of black boxes. One bill before Congress would allow an owner to disable his vehicle’s black box.

I have no problem with protecting someone’s right to privacy. That privacy may include data in vehicle black boxes. However, no one has the right to injure someone else with impunity. Therefore, no one should be able to disable a black box. Similarly, no one should be able to alter black box data after an accident. And the right of an accident victim to obtain black box data must be preserved.

The bill in the United States Congress that I referred to is titled HR2414, the Black Box Privacy Protection Act. A less dangerous bill has passed the New Jersey Assembly. But that bill still restricts back box use. It requires accident victims to get a court order to obtain black box data. On the positive side, it makes altering black box data after an accident a crime. But only if the accident causes injury. Sometimes injuries do not appear until some time after an accident. A negligent driver should not be allowed to ever erase black box data. The New Jersey Assembly bill is numbered A3579. A similar bill, S2433, is now before the New Jersey Senate.

I urge everyone concerned with justice to contact their congressional representatives and state legislators about this issue. Please tell them that careless drivers should not be able to get away with injuring innocent victims.

You can read an article about recent legislative activity here to restrict the use of black boxes.

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