What is a Car Black Box

Car Black Box

Most people associate black boxes with airplanes but they are no longer just the key tool in investigation of airplane accidents. The event data recorder (EDR) as the black box is officially called is slowly gaining an important role in investigation of car accidents as well. Despite the fact that some people have expressed concerns about privacy issues, car black boxes are not helpful for car accident investigators and insurance companies only. By recording the events and actions of the driver including speed, braking, turning, etc. seconds before the collision, the car black box will undoubtedly help both the police and insurance companies in reconstruction of the events before the accident but it will also bring a number of benefits for the car’s owner. Civil groups that are concerned about these black boxes incriminating the driver are of course right but imagine that you were involved in an accident that was not caused by you on an isolated road without any witnesses present.

The event data recorders are already installed in cars although many people are unaware of having such device installed. The first one was installed already in 1996, while as much as 70% to 85% of new cars come with installed car black boxes. These are not visible because they are under the seat or dashboard and activate about 5 seconds before the senses trigger activation of the airbags. Car black boxes were originally created to determine the cause of airbags’ activation but they collect several data of the driver’s actions including the speed which has made them very useful for reconstruction of accidents. In fact, the data recorded by car black boxes has been already used as an important evidence in the courts. A 19 year old man was convicted in the United Kingdom in 2006 on the base of data obtained from the car black box which has shown that he was driving way too fast.

Car Black Box

But the speed is not everything that a car black box records. One unit that collects data varies greatly from one vehicle to another and the device may also record whether you have pressed the brake pedal, made any sudden left/right turns, whether you have fastened your seatbelt, etc. as well as if there was any technical malfunction of the vehicle in the seconds before the accident. The black box typically records 5 to 10 seconds before the collision.

There is also another type of car black boxes, also known as video data event recorder which are used by the drivers voluntarily. These are installed on the windshield and feature a camera as well as a GPS unit and collects the performance data such as accelerating, braking and turning. The data is stored automatically to a secure digital (SD) card similar to those that are used in digital cameras and can be reviewed on a computer. This type of car black boxes is even more accurate than those that are currently being installed in vehicles because it also records the time, location and direction of the driving as well as the driver’s view which makes it very helpful for a number of hard-to-prove situations, for example when trying to prove that you drive through yellow not red lights.