August 23, 2006


NHTSA has issued a rule requiring car companies to inform consumers when their new vehicles are voluntarily equipped with “Event Data Recorders” (EDRs), described by NHTSA as “electronic devices that capture crash data in the few seconds before, during and after a crash” severe enough to cause the airbag to deploy. Approximately 64 percent of the model year 2005 passenger vehicles came equipped with the device.

The new federal rule, which does not mandate EDR installation in new cars, takes effect with the 2011 model year. It will require automakers who have chosen to install EDRs to note in the owner’s manual that the safety monitoring equipment has been installed. It also includes new requirements “designed to ensure that the data collected by EDRs can be used to improve highway safety. For example, the rule requires EDRs to be more durable to protect data during a crash. The rule also requires automakers to collect the same type of crash data if they chose to install an EDR,” NHTSA said.

Public Citizen issued a statement criticizing the rule as inadequate. It said the rule lacks a “protocol to ensure that government can get” data from the EDRs (“if the government has access to the data, it would ensure the confidentiality and non-identification of any individuals, mitigating privacy concerns”); that the rule standardizes only some of the key data elements that EDRs must capture and retain; that it fails to require EDRs in all vehicles – “For EDR data to be comprehensive and reflect actual crashes, 100 percent of vehicles should have them”; that it lacks a standard downloading requirement; that the rule does not require EDRs to survive high-speed crashes, and that it does not require a window sticker informing consumers when their vehicles are equipped with EDRs.

Earlier, Public Citizen president Joan Claybrook, in an interview in Time magazine, said that breach-of-privacy concern voiced by the ACLU and others over the presence of “black boxes” in cars was a “non-issue.” She commented on these and other motor vehicle safety issues and reiterated that the better way to reduce motor vehicle hazards is through regulation applied to all manufacturers, rather than reliance on voluntary manufacturer progress.”

Posted by MVHAP at August 23, 2006 09:41 PM