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DOT Proposes Mandatory Black Boxes for Passenger Vehicles

12/13/2012 -

The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to require automakers to install black boxes in passenger vehicles starting next year.

The Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says technology along withpublic education have helped reduce the number of highway fatalities to theirlowest point since 1949.

The proposed rule wouldrequire manufacturers to install event data recorders (EDRs) that document vehicle speed, braking, engine throttle, seat belt, and air-bag information in all vehicles less than 8,500 pounds.

The EDRs would not collect any personal information or conversations and will not continuously monitor vehicle operation, according to apress release from the NHTSA.

NHTSA says approximately 96 percent of 2013 model vehicles come with EDRs. Current EDR technology is triggered  upon impact or an air-bag deployment, recording the seconds before and during a crash.

The rule will mandate automakers to “provide a commercially available tool for copying the 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 in a written statement. "This proposal will give us the critical insight and information we need to save more lives."

The Associated Press reports the data recorders areincreasingly being used in accident investigations as well.

"Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray initially said that he wasn't speeding and that he was wearing his seat belt when he crashed a government-owned car last year. But the Ford Crown Victoria's data recorder told a different story: It showed the car was traveling more than 100 mph and Murray wasn't belted in," the AP reported.

Members of the public have 60 days to comment on the proposal

photo byFOTOSHO-TO/flickr