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Debates Concerning Automobile Black Box Data Continue

Posted on December 4, 2013

Most Americans have heard about “black boxes” when it comes to airplanes and airline crashes, but what many people don’t know is that their automobile is likely equipped with a black box, too.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has mandated that all automobile manufacturers include black boxes in their vehicles by 2014. However, many of those manufacturers have already jumped the gun and included the devices in the vehicles they manufacture. Nearly 96 percent of all vehicles manufactured in 2013 included Event Data Recorders (EDRs).

While EDRs are constantly recording, they do not transmit their data and only a segment of information they record is saved prior to a crash. Just this year, the NHTSA issued a final ruling concerning the crash data the black boxes must record. That data includes the vehicle’s speed just before a crash, brake and throttle application, airbag deployment and seat belt use.

But, now that use of vehicle black boxes is obviously here to stay, questions remain as to how the data they record can be used.

Should this data be available to insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, or individuals seeking information for civil litigation? Who is entitled to collect the data?

To date, there is no federal standard that addresses these concerns. Fourteen states have stepped in to fill the vacuum left by the lack of federal regulation. They have determined that EDR data is the vehicle owner’s property; however, law enforcement or those involved in civil litigation can still petition a court to seek access to the data.

While Florida does not have a specific law that addresses who owns EDR data, the state does have a computer trespass statute, which an EDR may fall under. That law specifically forbids a person from “willingly, knowingly and without authorization” accessing a computer or computer system. However, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals has ruled that the use of EDR data can be admissible in a criminal trial.

The automobile accident attorneys at Farah & Farah in Jacksonville will be keeping close track of EDR regulations as they evolve. If you have questions about your legal rights in the aftermath of a crash, don’t hesitate to call us at (800) 533-3555 or contact us online today to set up a free consultation.