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Black Box To Be Used in Ky. Manslaughter Trial

September 15, 2004

A judge in a northern Kentucky manslaughter trial has ordered the State to subpoena Ford Motor Co. for black box data, according to a news report from the Louisville Courier-Journal. A Kentucky man faces a manslaughter charge in the May 2003 death of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources Officer Doug Bryant. Prosecutors say Bryant stopped Lloyd Robinson along Interstate 75 near Florence, but Robinson sped away after Bryant got out of his truck to approach Robinson's car. They both crashed, and Bryant, 62, was killed.Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Bill Crockett said black-box data from Robinson's car confirmed witness accounts that he had been traveling 70 to 80 mph at the time of the crash, according to the story.Crockett said experts told him the more limited information available from the Ford box wouldn't be relevant to his case because the data from the truck's older-version recorder is less reliable when the vehicle flips over, as Bryant's did. Mike Vaughn, a technology spokesman for Ford, said all Fords have had data recorders since 2002, but only a few models have advanced capabilities that have been the focus of critics of the technology. Some of the boxes can record such information as pre-crash speed, braking, direction of travel and even seat-belt use. Police and lawyers say black boxes have value for investigating crashes and making driving safer.The National Transportation Safety Board recently recommended that the government require recorders in all vehicles, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it would not yet support that. Instead, the NHTSA plans to require by 2008 that all carmakers that install the recorders accept new technology standards.Dealers are not required to tell buyers about data recorders, but the NHTSA says it likely will require notification soon. Last year, California became the first state to require notices to consumers.The northern Kentucky case begins in January.
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