Manikas Law LLC October 2019 703-556-0004

October 2019

Criminal & Traffic Defense | Immigration | Personal Injury

Little Black Box How Your Vehicle’s Data Can Work For or Against You

side status, velocities during nondeployment and deployment events, and timing from impact to deployment Brake and throttle positioning within five seconds before impact

It’s natural for the law to adapt and evolve as society does, and this evolution can be for better or worse, depending on your perspective. One of the biggest transformations in evidence collection has been the use of “black box” data in law enforcement investigations following a traffic accident or incident. Most vehicles manufactured after 1995 are equipped with an event data recorder (EDR), or black box. Traditionally, this technology has been used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to gather statistical data. But within the last few years, law enforcement agencies have begun slowly utilizing black boxes to gather evidence for criminal cases. Today, police departments are fully equipped with the technology to retrieve this information, analyze it, and use it against you in court. Most black boxes only retain a few seconds of vehicle memory, which means that investigators, juries, and judges are not privy to information regarding a driver’s habits prior to the seconds before impact. This can be misleading, especially as experts try to piece together what happened. For example, if you were traveling under the speed limit for most of your trip and only sped up to pass a vehicle before an accident occurred, your black box may only record that accelerated speed. Here’s a list of some of the information that may be recorded on your vehicle’s black box: Vehicle and engine speed about five seconds before impact Ignition cycle at the time of the accident and during the investigation Air bag statistics, including passenger- • • •

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If you were wearing your seat belt If any warning lights were on

So, consider this a cautionary warning: Your vehicle’s EDR could be recording evidence that could be used against you in court, or it could be gathering data that could be used to your advantage. It just depends on what side of the courtroom you are on. If you were injured in an accident, we can use the evidence in the black box to support your claim and prove you were wronged. But if you’re being criminally charged, information on the box can be twisted to support your guilt without fully telling the story. Today’s juries and judges place a lot of weight on technology and the experts each side brings into the courtroom. Understanding this can be crucial in making sure your black box’s data works for you, not against you. was involved in a 10-car pileup along the interstate, and because of something he said to the investigators on the scene, his vehicle’s EDR information was pulled. The data showed that he was traveling at a high rate of speed and veered right just before the impact. It was a bleak outlook for my client as investigators tried to piece together who was at fault and what happened. However, we looked beyond the scope of what his vehicle’s EDR was telling us. This vehicle had more than 100,000 miles on it, and I recently represented a client whose case was heavily influenced by the black box. My client

a few parts within the wheel well had been replaced. This meant the data being pulled from the vehicle was not completely accurate, because the EDR’s tracking is based on the original parts that are installed in a vehicle. Essentially, the rotations of the axel on the tire correlate with the speed, and if those pieces are different than the original parts, that data is skewed. Because of this, we were able to significantly reduce my client’s role in the event, resulting in dropped criminal charges. As a driver, you must be aware of the constant tracking that your vehicle’s EDR is recording, and short of never driving again, there’s no way to avoid it. But understanding how this black box can work for you will make you a smarter driver.

-Kyle Manikas | 1

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