Report from federal agency says black boxes should be required in new cars

| 8/4/2004

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that event data recorders, more commonly known as “black boxes,” be required in all new cars in the United States.

The recommendation was made in a report regarding an accident in Santa Monica, CA. On July 16, 2003, a 1992 Buick LeSabre driven by an 86-year-old man was approaching an intersection near the city’s farmer’s market.

When the other car stopped, the Buick hit it and then continued through the farmer’s market. Ten people were killed, and 63 were injured.

In their report, NTSB officials said the accident was likely caused by the driver of the Buick when he hit the accelerator instead of the brake. Instead of slowing, he accelerated into the crowd of pedestrians.

But further into the report, the agency concludes that “a significantly higher level of science could have been applied to assessing and understanding the driver’s behavior” if the vehicle had been equipped with a data recorder.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s proposed rulemaking on standards governing voluntary, rather than mandatory, installation of event data recorders in light-duty vehicles will not result in obtaining the maximum highway safety benefits from this technology,” NTSB officials wrote in the report.

The issue of event data recorders also reappeared recently in a case involving trucking. Electronic on-board recorders, as they are called on trucks, were mentioned in a recent appeals court ruling on the hours-of-service rules.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the FMCSA should have collected and analyzed data on the costs and benefits of requiring electronic on-board recorders.