The Use of Black Boxes – Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

The phrase “black box” became commonly known in connection with airline disasters.  The term “black box” was the street term for an airplane’s Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR). These devices record very specific information about a plane’s operation for a period of time prior to the crash, including the conversations of the plane’s crew.  The information retrieved from a plane’s black box almost always plays a significant part in determining the cause of a plane’s crash.

Over time, the black box concept was applied to other forms of transportation. For instance, the federal government instituted laws which require all trains traveling over 30 miles per hour to have an event recorder. This device records the operational functions of the train, including the train’s speed, the time of day, distance traveled, horn activation, and the use of the train’s braking system.

Event Data Recorders

Since the early 1970s, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been working to collect “real world” accident data through “event data recorders.”  Similarly, auto manufacturers began developing sensor and recording technology as part of air bag development.

By 1996, NHTSA’s Special Crash Investigation program was able to use data from black boxes in reconstructing fatalities. In 1977, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a safety recommendation to NHTSA requiring school buses and motor coaches manufactured after 2003 to be equipped with onboard recording systems capable of preserving data in the event of a vehicle crash or an electrical power loss mounted to the bus body, not the chassis, to ensure that the data necessary for defining bus body motion is recorded.

Recent versions of black boxes in General Motors vehicles record up to 5 seconds of vehicle speed, engine RPM, throttle position, and brake application (off or on) information prior to the event or impact that causes an air bag to deploy. Ford vehicles do not have this information but do record lateral (side) impact crash severity information and passenger seat belt use

EDRs and ECMs can be an independent “witness” to accident conditions. The information provided by these digital witnesses provides a foundation for the accident reconstructionist and can help establish fault in ordinary driver negligence actions and in products liability cases against vehicle manufacturers.

Find Out How We Will Seek to Obtain Black Box and Other Critical Evidence For Your Case

Because critical evidence can be destroyed, damaged, or lost, it is important to retain an attorney to pursue a personal injury case as soon as possible after the accident.  If you retain our firm, I will begin to immediately seek to obtain black box and other critical evidence.

Please call me to find out more about how I and my firm will seek to prove each and every aspect of your case.  I offer a free, no-obligation consultation so that you can learn about me and my firm, and so that I can learn about how your case.  At this consultation, I can share with you how I will work diligently to pursue your case against all those responsible for your injuries and damages.

16020 Swingley Ridge Rd., Suite 340
St. Louis, MO 63017

Contact Us 888.586.7041

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