Black Boxes in Passenger Vehicles

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants all passenger vehicles to come equipped with “black boxes” in the future. Black boxes, also known as event recorders, have been used in other areas of the transportation industry for years, but the NHTSA would like to see them installed in passenger vehicles as a way to gather data regarding collisions. Understanding why car accidents happen will then help prevent them in the future, according to the NHTSA.

Most people have heard of “black boxes” in the context of an airplane crash. News reports typically tell us that investigators are searching for the “black box” in order to piece together what happened prior to the crash. In essence, black boxes are recording devices that continuously gather and store data from the airplane and are designed to survive even the most horrendous crash. Once the black box is located, investigators can then analyze the data to determine what caused the crash.

Although many motorists are unaware of this, similar devices are already being installed in many new passenger vehicles. The devices collect information such as how fast the vehicle is moving, whether seatbelts have been engaged, whether a driver brakes just prior to a crash, how the engine was performing just before a crash, and whether the airbags were operating properly.

Progressive Insurance Company has begun offering drivers the option to voluntarily install a similar device and lower their insurance rates. The device measures how many miles a driver drives each day, how fast the driver is driving, and how often he or she hits the brakes, among other things. Apparently, the company offers to lower insurance rates for low-risk driver.

These black boxes may also be useful in determining who was at fault in a car accident. Just as in-dash video cameras have been used in criminal cases and red light cameras have been used in traffic violation cases, a black box may be a valuable tool that can be used to prove negligence if you are involved in a car accident.