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NHSTA Sets Standards for Black Boxes in New Vehicles

Starting this month, all new vehicles containing event data recorders or black boxes are required to meet certain criteria laid out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This streamlined approach will help to ensure the black boxes properly record crash information, are universally accurate and operate at a certain level of crash survivability.

The new requirements include a provisions aimed at standardizing the data collected from black boxes. These standards will make it easier to for anyone involved in legal actions resulting from a car accident to use that data as evidence of what occurred.

The new rules for manufacturers also require that the data must be easily retrievable and that the black boxes measure the impact of car accidents, the engine speed and throttle position, steering input and the speed of air-bag deployment in specific ways.

Event data records have a circuit board with a memory chip and data jack which collect and store data from the vehicle. Many newer car models have black boxes installed and roughly 92 percent of 2010 models that weigh up to 8,481 pounds already have them installed.

Black boxes constantly record data from the vehicle, with the new data replacing the old data on the memory chip. If the air bags deploy or there is impact to the vehicle, the black box shuts down and collects the last few seconds of data in the memory chip.

The information collected from black boxes during a car accident can be very beneficial for safety advocates, car manufacturers facing a personal injury lawsuit and victims of car accidents. The data collected can be used in lawsuits to illustrate the causes of car accidents and whether manufacturers or other drivers should be held liable accordingly.

Earlier this year, Congress considered a provision which would have required black boxes to be installed in all new cars, but the measure was defeated in the House. The NHTSA is working to propose a revised standard which would mandate that black boxes be required in all new vehicles, as the NHTSA believes black boxes are key to providing more specific details on vehicle safety systems and possible design failures.

Source: New York Times, "N.H.T.S.A. Sets Standards for Data Collected From Black Boxes in Cars," Matthew L. Wald, Aug. 17, 2012

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