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Black box evidence could help solve accident cases-but do they pose privacy issues?

In the event of a car crash, investigators, victims and their families want to know, what caused the accident and whether an individual or entity was at fault. Fender benders and serious fatal accidents can be difficult to reconstruct in New York City and nationwide. The task can be even more challenging if witness-victims are seriously injured or diseased.

Advancements in GPS tracking technology as well as auto machinery are making it easier to reconstruct accident scenes. Black box evidence has been used to recreate flight crashes and commercial truck accidents. Now the National Highway Safety Administration is considering a mandate that would require the installation of black boxes in consumer vehicles to help recreate and solve accident cases.

Data collected by black box evidence can help determine:

  • Vehicle speed
  • Whether brakes were applied
  • Information about engine throttle
  • Whether seatbelts were buckled
  • Fuel economy

Combining this tracking information with witness statements, police reports, and independent investigations can help individuals as well as authorities determine the cause of an accident. However, consumer advocates worry that the installation of black boxes could result in higher insurance rates for drivers with monitored behavior. Privacy experts also believe that the data could potentially be used to spy on motorists and have advised that the black box evidence be accessible only by individual drivers.

Some manufacturers have already installed black boxes on some newer models. New technology could also make recording and accessing such data even easier. Congress rejected the legislation, but the NHTSA could sidestep Congress with its own regulations. Despite potential privacy issues, black box evidence derived from consumer vehicles may become the future of accident investigations.

Source: AOL, "Black Boxes Could Soon Help Solve Car Accidents," Dec. 10, 2012

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