Indiana bill to limit access to ‘black boxes’ dies; Kentucky bill still active

| 2/27/2008

A failed effort in the Indiana House sought to make it harder for Big Brother-type data from any motor vehicles to be used against drivers.

Sponsored by Rep. Earl Harris, D-East Chicago, the bill would have required the disclosure of the presence of “event data recorders,” or “black boxes,” in new vehicles. A person who “sells, rents, leases or otherwise conveys” a new motor vehicle would have been required to notify the owner both orally and in written form about the presence of an EDR and its capabilities.

The bill – HB1324 – remained in the House Roads and Transportation Committee at the deadline to advance from the chamber, effectively killing it for the year. A similar legislative effort in Kentucky still is active.

Indiana law now doesn’t require vehicle owners or operators to be notified that vehicles contain EDRs. The boxes could include information on the vehicle’s speed, direction of travel, location, steering performance, braking performance and seat-belt status as well as accident information.

Insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers and other interested third parties can access data after a wreck. In many newer vehicles, the information is automatically uploaded to a communication center immediately following a wreck, according to published reports.

Supporters of the bill said people should be informed about the presence of these devices. Opponents disagreed with the claim EDRs invade a driver’s privacy. They said driving is a privilege, not a right.

The bill also sought to prohibit use of the data available for surveillance, determining ownership or identifying occupants unless a search warrant is issued.

At least 20 states have at least considered efforts in recent years to regulate information from black boxes. California was the first state to regulate the recorders in 2004. Since then, at least 10 states have approved regulations for the devices.

To view other legislative activities of interest in Indiana, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor