Indestructible Black Box Provides Answers in Paul Walker Auto Accident


Actor Paul Walker died in a tragic Thanksgiving weekend auto accident last year. Immediately following the fatal one-car crash, fans wondered whether drugs, drinking, racing or mechanical failure might have been a factor, in part because his movies depicted him as a carefree, adventurous drag racer. Because the Porsche exploded into flames upon impact, the answers as to what happened were not immediately apparent. A decade ago, the families of Mr. Walker and his friend Roger Rodas, who was driving the car, might never have learned the cause of the deadly accident. But today, black box technology is changing car accident investigations.

Also called an event data recorder or an EDR, the black box in a vehicle records vital information about the moments before and during a crash. Airplanes, trains and tractor-trailers have been built with black boxes for decades. These indestructible machines are able to withstand the extreme conditions that often accompany an accident, including fire, water and force of impact. Indeed, investigators were able to recover the EDRs at the scene of Mr. Walker’s horrific accident. The three black boxes built into the Porsche survived, despite the total destruction of the car itself. The information contained on the recorder indicated that speed caused the accident.

A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rule mandates that all new cars must be built with black boxes beginning September 1st of this year. Most manufacturers are already installing the boxes. The NHTSA plans to use the technology to improve auto safety. In addition, law enforcement can obtain the information to determine a driver’s criminal liability for an auto crash. The EDRs also provide valuable evidence to accident victims that can support a claim against the car manufacturer or another driver.

In fact, EDRs record the following data:

  • Speed
  • Force of impact
  • Direction of impact
  • Steering
  • Brake application
  • Air bag deployment
  • Seatbelt usage


Topics:  Automotive Industry, Black Box, Car Accident, NHTSA, Wrongful Death

Published In: Personal Injury Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Owens & Mulherin | Attorney Advertising

Don't miss a thing! Build a custom news brief:

Read fresh new writing on compliance, cybersecurity, Dodd-Frank, whistleblowers, social media, hiring & firing, patent reform, the NLRB, Obamacare, the SEC…

…or whatever matters the most to you. Follow authors, firms, and topics on JD Supra.

Create your news brief now - it's free and easy »