Seatbelts save lives. Not driving while intoxicated saves lives. Today, black box technology saves lives, too.
Black box technology is mostly known for being used on airplanes to record and recover a flight’s last moments. What most people don’t know is that same technology has been installed in vehicles since 1994, and it’s one of many life-saving vehicle technologies.
Cadillac, Buick, Chevy, and Pontiac were the first car manufacturers to install black boxes in their vehicles in 1994 to learn how their cars performed in crashes. As of September 1, 2014, every new car manufactured in the U.S. must have a black box.
How black boxes are used in vehicles:
A black box, also known as an electronic control module (ECM) or event data recorder (EDR), is similar to an airplane’s black box. A black box records and stores data pertaining to the truck and any event it’s involved in (like an accident or near accident). Data is generally held for 30 days before it’s recorded over.
Truck manufacturers began installing black boxes in their vehicles the 1990s to deny invalid warranty claims. Today, black boxes are helping officials determine the cause of accidents.
Black boxes provide insight into what caused a car crash
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) routinely collects data from black boxes after a crash in order to identify contributing factors. The information collected by these boxes can tell a fairly accurate story.
For example, in 2011, Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray wrecked his government vehicle when it slid off the road and flipped twice over a rocky ledge. State police initially concluded the crash was caused by black ice. The vehicle’s black box told a different story: Murray was driving 75 miles per hour seconds before the crash, his speed increased to 108 mph, and his car hit the ledge at 92 mph. The conclusion was he had fallen asleep at the wheel.
The data collected by black boxes is used by organizations to learn what causes motor vehicle crashes so they can come up with solutions. Collecting this data is also a good way to identify specific models that might need to be recalled or issued safety repairs.
Black boxes help truck accident victims
Imagine being injured in an accident due to a distracted or fatigued truck driver, but not being able to prove fault? Before black boxes, it wasn’t so easy to prove a truck driver caused an accident. Even though most truck accidents are known to be caused by negligent or fatigued drivers, it still must be proven.
The black boxes installed in commercial vehicles are directly responsible for helping truck accident victims prove fault. Attorneys will go through the court to request the preservation of the truck’s black box. If the company doesn’t respond, they’ll get a temporary restraining order against the company to prevent destruction of evidence.
Truck accidents are serious. According to the NHTSA, in 2017, fatalities involving large trucks increased by 9% and fatalities involving tractor trailers increased by 5.8%. Fatal crashes involving single-unit straight trucks increased by 18.7%.
Truck accident victims without access to black box data are vulnerable, and might end up getting swindled by an insurance company’s lowball settlement offer. The difference between insurance settlement offers and winning a personal injury lawsuit is huge. For example, Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, P.A. published a graph showing the discrepancy between settlement offers made by insurance companies and the amount of compensation they recovered in court. The most shocking discrepancy is a truck accident victim who was offered $150,000 by insurance, but in court, a $3,337,756 verdict was won.
Black boxes record data that can be used to correct bad driving habits:
The data recorded by a truck’s black box can also be used by the company to correct a driver’s bad habits. For example, the box will record lane drift warnings and instances of hard braking. It will also record how many miles are driven and how many hours are spent on the road. If the company owner regularly downloads the data to check in on drivers, they can issue warnings and encourage drivers to be more diligent.
Safety First in a Data-Driven World:
In a world driven primarily by data, it’s no wonder black box technology is being used to save lives. Black boxes offer insight into crashes that no human can record. Some say we rely on technology too much, but when technology has the potential to saves lives, it’s never enough.