The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

NHTSA Proposes Requirements for Voluntarily Installed Black Boxes

June 22, 2004

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed on June 14 standard requirements for black boxes, (event data recorders or EDRs) that manufacturers choose to install in light vehicles. The proposed rule would not require the installation of EDRs. An EDR is an electronic device that detects a crash and records certain information for several seconds of time before, during, and after a crash. An EDR may record pre-crash data, such as impact speed, forces on the vehicle during the crash, safety belt use, and airbag performance and allow activation of an automatic collision notification to emergency medical personnel. “EDRs are in most new vehicles and are already providing valuable safety information for our crash investigators and researchers,” said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, MD. “We hope that eventually this crash information will be available in real time to emergency medical systems and physicians to improve trauma care after a crash.” Beginning September 2008, NHTSA is proposing to:

  • Require that EDRs voluntarily installed in light vehicles are required to record a minimum set of specified data elements useful for crash investigations.
  • Specify requirements for that data.
  • Increase the survivability of the EDRs and their data by requiring that they function during and after front, side, and rear crash tests.
  • Require vehicle manufacturers to make publicly available information that would enable crash investigators to retrieve data from EDRs.
  • Require vehicle manufacturers to include a brief, standardized statement in the owner’s manual indicating that the vehicle is equipped with an EDR and describing the purposes of EDRs.

    NHTSA first began EDR studies after a 1997 recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board. The agency’s studies of the EDR records of more than 2,000 crashes led to the proposal. Out of the approximately 200 million light vehicles in the U.S., NHTSA estimates that 15 percent of them (30 million cars, pickups, vans, sport/utility vehicles, and multi-purpose vehicles) are equipped with EDRs that can be easily read, and that between 65 percent and 90 percent of new light-vehicle models will be equipped with EDRs.

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