Feds seek 'black boxes' in all vehicles by 2014 - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Feds seek 'black boxes' in all vehicles by 2014

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ATLANTA -

Flight data recorders are black boxes that record crash information in airplanes, and now one federal agency wants to require them in new vehicles.

They're called event data recorders, and they've been around for more than a decade but the technology keeps improving. Ninety-two percent of vehicles made in 2010 already have this technology.
    
More and more local investigators are using the black boxes in fatal wrecks to help them prove their case and put criminals behind bars.

Lt. Wade Chaffin of the Georgia State patrol has reviewed a 2008 case where two University of West Georgia graduates were ejected and killed. Together with the roadway evidence, troopers pulled the information off the Chevy Impala's event data recorder.

"The module has brought a new witness to the table," said Chaffin.

The data showed the 23-year-old driver never hit the brakes before running off the road, killing the two back seat passengers. He's serving 30 years for vehicular homicide.

"You're wanting to get family's answers, and you want to try to make some sense out of a senseless situation, and a lot of times it's difficult, this just helps paint that picture," Chaffin said.

The crash data is tied in to the car's computers and in most cases, help control the airbags.

"If it's going to know when to fire the bags, it's having to calculate and gather vehicle information -- real time. And I'm talking quick real time," said Chaffin.

The technology is constantly improving, and providing more and more information. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration wants to require them in all new cars by September 2014. They believe it saves lives, painting a picture of why and how wrecks happen.

Chaffin says the technology confirms their field work, and makes investigating fatal wrecks even more detailed.

"It really validates a lot of the stuff we've already done. There's a difference between accuracy and precision and this kind of brings the preciseness to the entire investigation," Chaffin said.

Most cars made in the 2000's and newer have this technology. The box may always be on, but it's not recording your every move -- only significant impacts. It can record vehicle speed, if the brakes were used, state of the engine, and if the seatbelts were being used or not.
    
Officers must have the owner's consent or get a search warrant to pull the information off the recorder. Certain organizations, like the American Civil Liberties Union want even more safeguards in place so insurance companies can't access the information.

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