Federal safety officials recommend that the government require data recorders—“black boxes”—in all passenger vehicles, according to an Associated Press report Tuesday. National Transportation Safety Board investigators made the recommendation after an investigation of a car crash that killed 10 people and injured 63. Investigators concluded the elderly driver had stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake when he plowed into a farmers market in Santa Monica, California last summer. The board said investigators could have gained a better scientific understanding of Weller's behavior had his 1992 Buick been outfitted with an event data recorder, or black box, according to the AP report. Event data recorders measure five important factors in airbag deployment and near deployment events: vehicle speed, engine speed, brake status, throttle position, and the position of the driver’s seat belt switch (on or off). The data is stored from five seconds before a crash. Black boxes have been installed in some cars as early as the ’70s, though only recently have crash investigators been able to retrieve and analyze the data. Currently, approximately 15 percent of the cars on the road have a data recorder connected to its airbag. Some civil rights experts are concerned the technology could infringe on people’s privacy. In California, legislation aimed at protecting motorists from “black box” data went into effect on July 1. The law, the first of its kind in the nation, prevents the recorded data from being obtained by police or others without the vehicle owner’s consent or a court order, except in cases of safety research in which the owner’s identity is protected. The law also requires automakers to disclose the presence of the devices in the owner’s manual.
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