What is a black box, and does my car have one?

You may have heard of the term "black box" in the context of aviation, but did you know that your car may also have one? Also known as an event data recorder (EDR), a black box is a device that records critical information about a vehicle's performance and the driver's behaviour leading up to an accident. While some drivers may be concerned about their privacy being compromised, these devices can be essential in determining the cause of an accident and holding responsible parties accountable. In this law blog, we'll delve into the technology behind black boxes, their legal implications, and what drivers need to know.

From how the data can be used in a court of law to steps you can take to protect your rights, we'll cover it all. So, if you're wondering whether your car has a black box and what it means for you, keep reading to find out.


What is a black box?

The black box was designed to work closely with the airbag control module (ACM), which is a system that controls when and how the airbag deploys. For this purpose, the black box will record information that could help determine the cause of the accident, such as how fast the car was moving, whether the airbag was functioning correctly, and when it was deployed to the impact.

However, black boxes must follow strict regulations by governing bodies like National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States. Here is the information black boxes can record:

  • Changes in forwarding crash acceleration
  • The speed the vehicle was traveling 
  • How far the accelerator was pushed down
  • If the brakes were engaged
  • If the driver was wearing a seatbelt
  • If the airbag engaged 
  • The total number of collisions, etc.

Please note that the black box can only record a few seconds of information before the crash and does not include audio or video information. However, the data it records is beneficial to the investigations or analysis after the incident.

Retrieving information from a black box

You probably have never seen your car's black box or know where it's located. While it's not impossible to identify and access, it can be quite a challenge without experience and the necessary equipment.

While a black box could help fill in the blanks after an accident, the data can be misused. In case of an accident, law enforcement is often the first group to show interest in your car's black box. However, they must obtain a search warrant to retrieve and access the information on the black box.

When involved in a car accident, the best thing you can do is to get in touch with an experienced personal injury attorney. Since information on the black box can be used against you, depending on the nature of the accident. So go ahead and give us a call or fill out our contact form to

Call Sgarlato & Sgarlato PLLC. today to schedule your free consultation.

Sgarlato & Sgarlato PLLC Personal Injury Lawyers helps injured residents of the Staten Island area recover full compensation for the damages and losses they suffer due to the negligence of others.
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