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Black boxes in cars could reveal fault in a car accident

When a car accident happens, authorities puzzle over the facts and details at the accident scene to try and piece together what happened. Eyewitnesses of a Tennessee car accident certainly help in the investigation process, but sometimes they provide conflicting accounts. This can be vexing for accident victims with claims against the party responsible because it makes it more difficult to prove what exactly occurred. Interestingly, one largely unknown piece of equipment contained in 96 percent of newly manufactured cars may be the answer.

These 'black boxes' are utilized by mechanics to diagnose car problems when doing maintenance and fixing problems on vehicles. However, manufacturers are giving them the ability to record more and more information, like how fast a car was traveling at a given time, whether or not the driver was wearing a seatbelt and more. This kind of information can be vital in assigning fault to a particular driver while investigating a car accident.

Because these devices record data, which otherwise would not be knowable, a debate over privacy has ensued. Many people question whether or not it is a violation of privacy to admit this new data in court cases involving a car accident. Some consumer advocates are saying that the 'black boxes' in automobiles are another example of how our privacy rights being infringed upon by governments and other organizations.

At this time, a total of 14 states have ruled that data contained inside the 'black boxes' is admissible in court if subpoenaed by law enforcement or lawyers in criminal cases and other types of civil litigation. While the valuable nature of this information in determining what happened in a Tennessee car accident cannot be denied, certainly the ethics and privacy concerns over its use is debatable. Also, it appears that there is a lack of standardization of the information contained inside these devices, which can interfere with the ability to extract and properly interpret the information. Therefore, in some cases the veracity the data can be legally challenged. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how this information is utilized in future car accident cases.

Source: The New York Times, "A Black Box for Car Crashes," Jaclyn Trop, July 21, 2013

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