Watching your wheels
Special Report: Watching your wheels
On a winter afternoon, Michelle Zimmerman drove her SUV down an isolated Ipswich road. In the passenger seat, her good friend, Ken Carlson.
Bob Weiner, Zimmermanís attorney, explains, "they hit a patch of snow and ice on argilla road, and the car started to skid, and turn sideways, and the passenger door struck a large tree."
Zimmerman had minor injuries, but the crash killed Carlson.
Weiner says, "it was devastating to have lost her good friend, her companion."
Zimmerman was found guilty of motor vehicle homicide.
The reason - this device - what some refer to as a "black box". It's called an "event data recorder", or "EDR". A module like this captured the last 5 seconds of what Zimmerman's SUV was doing before the crash.
The speed limit was 40, the EDR said the SUV was going 58.
There were very little skid marks, the EDR said the brakes were never used.
"In my judgment, without the EDR, there would have been no criminal prosecution in this case," says Weiner.
Zimmerman's case is being appealed.
If you have an airbag in your car or SUV, most likely, you also have some type of EDR. But you'd never know it's there, until after a serious accident.
Paul Hervieux from Methuen says, "I can see where it has it's good purposes, but i can see people taking advantage of the data,"
Caroline Sheehan from Belmont says, "Too much information is not a good thing."
Investigators can tap into it by plugging into your car's main computer. Depending on the vehicle, EDRs record engine speed, braking, whether seatbelts are buckled, and more.
Trooper Edward O'Hara from the Massachusetts State Police says,
"Overall, society benefits from that. It has helped people in circumstances where they weren't at fault."
But others are uneasy.
Massachusetts State Rep. David Torrisi, (D) North Andover, drafted a bill to make car-buyers aware of EDRs. He says, "I think there's a fundamental right to privacy and a right to ownership, too. I mean, I don't know if I have a black box, and if I did, I wouldn't be able to access it."
Either way- EDRs might have everyone keeping a closer eye on the road.
Right now, two State House bills, if passed, would make car-buyers aware that EDRs are in new vehicles.NHTSA's EDR history
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