U.S. DOT Proposes New Standard to Improve Vehicle Safety

A new standard that would capture safety-related data seconds before and during a vehicle crash was proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Friday. This new rule would require automakers to install event data recorders (EDRs) in all light passenger vehicles beginning September 1, 2014. The EDRs are devices that record specific safety-related data.

“By understanding how drivers respond in a crash and whether key safety systems operate properly, NHTSA and automakers can make our vehicles and our roadways even safer,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This proposal will give us the critical insight and information we need to save more lives.”

The NHTSA estimates that almost all 2013 vehicles already have EDRs installed. A car or airbag usually triggers the EDR and collects data in the seconds before and during a crash.

Some of the data recorded include:

  • vehicle speed;
  • whether the brake was activated in the moments before a crash;
  • crash forces at the moment of impact;
  • information about the state of the engine throttle;
  • air bag deployment timing and air bag readiness prior to the crash; and
  • whether the vehicle occupant’s seat belt was buckled.

“EDRs provide critical safety information that might not otherwise be available to NHTSA to evaluate what happened during a crash — and what future steps could be taken to save lives and prevent injuries,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “A broader EDR requirement would ensure the agency has the safety-related information it needs to determine what factors may contribute to crashes across all vehicle manufacturers.”

The new safety regulation proposed today would require EDRs as mandatory equipment in passenger vehicles that weigh less than 8,500 pounds. The proposal includes the same standardized data collection requirements established by NHTSA in 2006 for EDRs that are voluntarily installed by automakers (49 CFR Part 563) and mandates that automakers provide a commercially available tool for copying the data. In keeping with NHTSA’s current policies on EDR data, the EDR data would be treated by NHTSA as the property of the vehicle owner and would not be used or accessed by the agency without owner consent.

Members of the public are encouraged to provide comment on NHTSA’s EDR proposal and will have 60 days to do so once the proposal is published in the Federal Register. The proposal and information on how to submit comments are available HERE.

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