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New NHTSA rule creates info uniformity for vehicle black boxes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) enacted a new rule effective September 1 that requires black box technology in vehicles to record uniform data in a variety of categories, including the types of data captured, the accuracy of the information and the ability for the box to survive a car crash.

At the moment, though, these standards apply only to vehicles that are voluntarily outfitted with the black box technology. If the NHTSA gets its way, another rule may soon be on its way that requires all new cars to contain black box devices right from the start. The rule is part of a larger effort to learn more about how car accidents occur in hopes of reducing motor vehicle crash rates in Ohio and nationally.

Black boxes have been featured in vehicles manufactured by General Motors since the early 1990s. Initially, they were more common in commercial and heavy vehicles than they were in smaller, personal cars.

The data recorded can also help investigators figure out who is at fault in a multiple-vehicle collision. While helping determine fault in accidents, it could also expedite the legal process if standardized data was available in every accident.

Black boxes are stored in a well-protected area in the vehicle where they are least likely to be damaged in an accident. In many cases, this is under the center console or underneath the driver's seat.

Automakers are also hopeful that the information obtained through black boxes -- such as how quickly air bags deploy in the event of an accident -- can guide future manufacturing processes and make vehicles more responsive and safer in accidents.

Source: New York Times, "N.H.T.S.A. sets standard for data collected from black boxes in cars," Matthew L. Wald, Aug. 17, 2012

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