New Auto Safety Bill: Black Boxes For Auto Accidents
There is a new auto safety bill making its way through Congress; not surprisingly, it is adding to the tension between manufacturers and regulators. Peter Whoriskey, a staff writer for The Washington Post, reports:
In response to the massive Toyota recalls earlier this year, Congress is considering a raft of new proposals intended to enhance auto safety. The industry and safety groups are also sparring over proposed requirements in bills by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Cal.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), that would, among other things, allow judicial review of NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] investigation decisions, lift the cap on civil penalties for automakers who violate NHTSA rules and make auto company executives liable for up to $250 million if they file false or misleading reports to the agency.
An additional idea gaining steam is the “black box.” Based on the standard airline flight recorder, the black box would record the circumstances leading to an auto accident, providing evidence of whether or not the driver is at fault. There is much debate on Capital Hill over how much information the black box should collect, but the idea itself is likely to remain in the final bill in one form or another.
U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier writes a powerful column for SFGate in support of the technology. But we won’t have to wait for the bill to become law to see this technology in effect. Josh Mitchell, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, notes that one embattled auto maker is already adopting the black box:
Toyota has recalled more than 8.5 million vehicles globally for problems related to unintended acceleration, attributing the problem to sticky accelerator pedals and floor mats that could slip and trap the pedal to the floor. Toyota has repaired 3.5 million vehicles so far, Mr. Lentz said.
The auto maker is installing brake-override systems in all its new vehicles and also traffic accident recording devices that can tell what was going on with the car when during an incident, Mr. Lentz said. Toyota in addition is implementing a system to make it easier for customers to obtain the data from the crash recorders.
Regardless of how things end up at the Federal level, there will likely be significant improvements in the quality of evidence submitted in auto accident cases. The ability to record aspects of the situation during a collision could have a huge impact on insurance claims, lawsuits and trials.