Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

How EDR's Capture and Record Accidents

What is an EDR and how does it help after a road accident? Technology pioneered in air crash investigations is now being applied to determine the causes of road accidents. Beginning in the 1980's an increasing number of automobile manufacturers began voluntarily installing accident recording devices on their vehicles. Known as Event Data Recorders (EDR's), these devices are now standard features in many automobiles. This is the result of updates to the Onboard Diagnostic Standard of the US Code of Federal Regulations which requires all new vehicles offered for sale in the US to be equipped with sensors that collect diagnostic information on the vehicle that can be downloaded via a standard diagnostic link connection.

In 2014, it was estimated that 96% of automobiles on the road had some form of EDR installed. These devices record a wide swath of information that includes the vehicle's speed at the time of an accident, braking patterns, impact points, inertia, and other data points. This information creates a 5-20 second snapshot of the vehicle's performance before, during, and immediately following a road accident. For example, it can show if a driver was speeding, if the ABS performed properly or failed, and which points on the vehicle were struck in the initial and any secondary impacts.

Regulations passed by the NHTSA in 2012 required EDR's to record a minimum of 15 data points. These include engine performance, vehicle speed, acceleration, steering performance, seat belt usage, airbag deployment, and the force of impact. Following an accident, a trained technician can use data-retrieval tools such as the Crash Data Retrieval System manufactured by Bosh Corporation to extract this information from the EDR. This retrieval must be done promptly as many data records do not retain the data from a road accident for very long. It is also important to note that some states have enacted statutes that restrict the gathering of information and restrict the ability of individuals involved in a road accident to pursue these records. This can make it more challenging for law enforcement and injured parties to establish a clear cause of the accident using irrefutable data from an EDR.

EDR's are not a replacement for road accident reconstruction. Rather, they are an assistive tool which establishes a baseline and corroborates other evidence such as skid marks on the pavement, vehicle damage, photographs and video captures, personal injuries sustained, etc. The data collected by an EDR essentially shows how each factor influenced the cause(s) and the subsequent result(s) of the accident.

Brad Pistotnik represents clients in Liberal, Topeka, Wichita, Lawrence, Salina, and cities throughout Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Nebraska who have been involved in a road accident. In instances where the vehicles involved have EDR's installed, this information can be used to establish the actions of the drivers involved and the performance of safety features installed on the vehicle(s). Coupled with photographic evidence, accident reports, and medical records, this data can establish fault for the accident. It is especially important in comparative fault states where each driver may be assigned a percentage responsibility for the accident.

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