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Black Boxes: Not Just for Planes

The recent tragic crash of Asiana Flight 214 in California that caused two deaths and injured hundreds of people is currently under investigation. The National Traffic Safety Board says that data recovered from the plane’s “black boxes” has revealed that the flight crew discussed aborting the landing as late as 1.5 seconds before impact. These types of devices are expected on aircraft, but did you know that cars have “black boxes” too?

Automotive “Black Boxes”

According to the New York Times, around 96 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States have “black boxes.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Board wants them to be mandatory in all new vehicles because they can make a major impact on highway safety, help to define auto safety problems, assist law enforcement, and provide information regarding specific aspects of a crash.

Event Data Recorder (EDR)

When trying to piece the details of a traffic accident together, these devices can be invaluable. In the automotive industry, they are known as an event data recorder (EDR), which provides information about the impact and airbag deployment during the crucial moments of an accident.

According to the NHTSA, an EDR is “a device installed in a motor vehicle to record technical vehicle and occupant information for a brief period of time (seconds, not minutes) before, during and after a crash.”

EDRs may record:

  • Pre-crash vehicle dynamics and system status
  • Driver inputs
  • Vehicle crash signature
  • Restraint usage/deployment status
  • Post-crash data such as the activation of an automatic collision notification system (like OnStar.)

Using an EDR is just one of the many ways our car accident attorneys can prove your case. We know how to gather information from audio or video recordings, GPS navigation systems and data logs (such as hours of service for truck operators), as well as witness testimony and assemble the data in order get you the compensation you deserve.


Download and print out our Accident Checklist and keep it in your glove compartment so you have it handy if you are ever in an accident. It includes 11 tips to follow and also provides space to take notes at the scene of the accident. There is no registration required to receive this valuable free resource.



A Black Box for Car Crashes” by Jaclyn Trop, New York Times, July 21, 2013.

“Event Data Recorder Research Web site” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, accessed July 26, 2013.