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Should Black Boxes be mandatory?

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In my previous post "Investigating Truck Crashes" I talked about, and received some excellent comments about the perishability of evidence.

Do we need to do more to combat or at least mitigate this?

Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBR’s) are a growing trend. They’re already mandatory for some trucking companies that have poor safety records. Eventually, they’ll be required in all (or at least most) commercial trucks. Some trucking companies are already using electronic logs to replace paper logs.

I’m talking about even more than that. What if all vehicles were required to have EOBR’s?

Video evidence has had a major impact on all kinds of trials. It has the advantage of being impartial, and, as the saying goes, is worth a thousand words. Where there’s a video camera that has a crash site in view, it can often make clear an otherwise muddy "he said, she said" situation — and it seems that video cameras are everywhere these days. Murphy’s law being operative though, there’s probably not one where it’s needed.

Modern automobiles now have a great deal of computer power on-board already. The trend is to add still more. Some cars already automatically store a few seconds of data when airbags deploy in a crash. This could be easily and cheaply extended to whatever reasonable length of time is decided to be appropriate.

On the opposite side of the coin is the whole Big Brother aspect, as well as some possible issues over self-incrimination. Just who can access the data, and for what purposes? How much data should be kept, and for how long? Should data be restricted to operating parameters, or should on-board video cameras also be required? Should video cameras be restricted to viewing areas on the outside of the vehicle, or should they also include the driver inside? What about passengers?

Did you have a trial over a crash where video evidence either was or wasn’t available? What effect did it have?

As always, comments and questions are welcome.