New Rule on Crash Data Still Leaves Public in the Dark
A new rule governing vehicle devices that record data about passenger vehicle crashes does not do enough to close data gaps about highway safety.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule August 28 on event data recorders (EDRs). While the rule takes necessary steps to standardize EDR data collection, it completely fails to mandate these important safety devices in all new vehicles.
EDRs record information about a vehicle’s performance during a crash or near-crash situation, which is defined by events such as airbag deployment or sudden changes in vehicle velocity. Typically, EDRs only capture a few seconds of information, and through this collected data investigators can reconstruct what happened during the crash event. EDRs offer important benefits for highway and vehicle safety development and also offer opportunities to dramatically improve emergency response to crashes.
The unprecedented access to objective, real-world crash data that EDRs provide offer numerous safety benefits including:
NHTSA estimates that 64% of new vehicles have EDRs, but the greatest safety benefit potential for EDRs will only be achieved if they are included in all new vehicles. Only with full fleet penetration will EDR data offer the most accuracy and utility to crash and defect investigators, thereby leading to better safety improvements. In the new rule, NHTSA states that it is its intention for auto makers to eventually include EDRs in all vehicles; however without a mandate nothing will prevent auto manufacturers from halting EDR inclusion in order to avoid standardization costs.
NHTSA’s new EDR rule also fails to require data collection on key safety issues, such as passenger seatbelt usage, and only requires data recording to occur for a paltry 5 seconds. Furthermore, NHTSA is not currently collecting EDR data in its Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which undermines the data’s effectiveness and squanders a valuable opportunity to learn more about real-world crash prevention.
Public Citizen believes that EDRs should be used to fully maximize their safety benefits, and we will continue our advocacy efforts with the Department of Transportation to address the numerous shortcomings of the new EDR rule this coming October.
Click here to read a statement by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook regarding the new rule.