Monitoring Motorists

Yesterday, after a brief search for a cheap used car, I shifted gears and bought a cheap, new car. It's a little red hatchback with ...
by | August 24, 2006

Yesterday, after a brief search for a cheap used car, I shifted gears and bought a cheap, new car. It's a little red hatchback with anti-lock brakes (ABS), six airbags (SRS), and possibly an EDR.

An E-D-what, you say? Well, while reading the newspaper today, I just learned about "event data recorders" myself. Similar to the "black boxes" on airplanes, the devices record information on speed, seat-belt use, steering and braking in the seconds immediately before, during and after a collision. Apparently, EDRs are roughly the size of a deck of cards have been put into more than two-thirds of all cars manufactured since 2004, but most consumers don't know of their existence.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration pushed for their installation as "standard equipment" so researchers could obtain data to help in designing safer vehicles, but there are no federal rules about whether other parties--such as police officers, prosecutors and insurers--could also access the data and use it as evidence.

On Monday, NHTSA announced it will require automakers to standardize the data that EDRs collect and to disclose their presence in owner's manuals -- by 2011. In the meantime, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 10 states already have laws mandating that car buyers be notified about their presence and a handful forbid the downloading of data without the consent of the owner or a court. Maryland, my Maryland, isn't one of them.

Some of you policy makers out there are obviously ahead of me when it comes to familiarity with this issue. So before I hand the car keys over to my 16-year-old son, how do I check to see if I've got an EDR?

    

       

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