NHTSA calls for 'black boxes' in all new vehicles

Following a serious car accident in Alabama, it is often necessary to conduct a lengthy investigation to determine what went wrong. Even then, there are often still many questions left unanswered. That's why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is pushing for black boxes to be installed in all new motor vehicles.

The nation's top auto regulator said data recorders are essential to promoting safety on the nation's roadways, and promise that the technology will not breach motorists' privacy rights. NHTSA has recommended that all vehicles built after September 2014 should be installed with the devices, which record information before and after a crash.

Additionally, NHTSA said it opposes on/off switches that would allow motorists to opt to turn off the data recording devices. Surprisingly, a NHTSA spokesman said that approximately 96 percent of 2013 cars and light-duty vehicles are capability of using a data recorder, and around 91 percent already have the devices installed.

The devices, which have been in use for about 20 years, don't track or record a driver's every move. Instead, they are triggered in the event of an air bag deployment or a crash. The device then collects and records data in the seconds before, during and after impact. Information regarding vehicle speed, brake or accelerator use, seatbelt usage, forces at the moment of impact and air bag deployment can all be recorded.

The main purpose of the devices, the NHTSA spokesman said, is to determine what went on with a vehicle in the moments surrounding a crash. That way, he said, regulators can fix the problem or they can ask the manufacturers to. Of course, if the information was accessible, it could also have a huge impact in personal injury lawsuits following car accidents.

Source: Detroit News, "NHTSA: Data recorders 'essential' to auto safety," David Shepardson, Dec. 19, 2012

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