Starting in 1999, General Motors began installing event data recorders, commonly known as black boxes, into specific models. The black boxes would collect information about how the vehicle was operated and could be used to provide answers after a car accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reviewed a proposal to make installation of black boxes into new cars mandatory starting as soon as next year. The move is controversial and is pitting safety experts against privacy experts and consumer advocates as arguments arise over how the boxes can and will be used.
The cause of a deadly accident is not always easy to determine. Witness accounts may differ and people in the accident may not be in a position to explain what happened. Safety experts believe that better data could help them identify ways to make transportation safer. The NHTSA could make superior recommendations with complete data regarding how vehicles were handled immediately prior to a deadly wreck. Black boxes could give details regarding whether the occupants of the car were wearing their seatbelts, how fast the car was travelling, whether the driver hit the brakes, and more. Understanding car accidents is important in the battle to prevent them.
Unfortunately, consumer advocacy groups and privacy supporters are concerned that the black boxes will be used to punish drivers rather than benefit them. The black boxes could be used to track motorists. They could be used to justify denying drivers’ insurance claims or charging higher rates. A speaker from the American Civil Liberties Union indicated that control of the information needs to be in the hands of the owner of the vehicle.
If the NHTSA approves the measure, all new cars and light trucks would come equipped with event data recorders.
Source: AOL Autos, “Black Boxes Could Soon Help Solve Car Accidents,” 10 December 2012