Wednesday 28 October, 2020

Loop Road Rules: Black boxes tell horrific tales of fatal crashes

The scene of a fatal car crash on Spanish Town Road last year.

The scene of a fatal car crash on Spanish Town Road last year.

Speed limits exist for a reason and that is one factor that makes insurance companies and law enforcement officials keen to get their hands on the data recorder (black boxes) of motor vehicles as they attempt the reconstruction of an accident scene.

With an average of more than 300 traffic fatalities in Jamaica each year, those responsible for determining guilt and settling payments are increasingly turning to the black box, according to Kenute Hare, the Director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport.

Hare told Loop News that there are at least 40 individuals in Jamaica who are trained to analyse the equipment - analysis which sometimes paints a sobering picture, according to the road safety expert.

“I thought (for sometime) that the highest speed I saw in the black box of a motor vehicle that crashed was 122 (kilometres per hour). Would you believe it that I (subsequently) found a motor vehicle involved in a fatal collision in Jamaica with speeds of over 180 kilometres per hour?” an astonished Hare said.

The road safety director noted that there are no roads in Jamaica which facilitate such high speeds. In fact, the highest speed limit in Jamaica is 110 kilometres per hour - and that is on the tolled highways.

“We have been telling people that the black box in the motor vehicle operates in a similar way to the black box in the airplane whereby everything that the driver was doing is recorded,” Hare said.

He commended members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force for what he said was the high level of investigation analysis that they are doing in relation to traffic crashes. He said members of the RSU also assist in investigations.

According to website Admin Auto, everyone involved in accident investigation and reconstruction should by now become fully aware that motor vehicles equipped with an airbag could possess an event data recorder (black box) that is recording, with the potential to store, critical pieces of driver behaviour information.

“Some of this driver behaviour information cannot be acquired from physical evidence, thus the need to leverage the technology in the motor vehicles. Every accident investigator and reconstructionist should make it their point of duty to know what type of data is being recorded by the event data recorder …,” it said.

The following information can be gleaned from a black box following a crash, depending on the motor vehicle being analysed:

- Time in seconds

- Speed over time which is either in miles per hour or kilometres per hour

- Whether or not the brake or gas pedals were deployed over time

- Rate of acceleration over time

- Engine RPM over time

- Gear that the motor vehicle was in over time

- Seatbelt use or non-use

- Number of key ignition cycles

- Deployment or non-deployment of the airbag

- Change in velocity of the motor vehicle impacted

- Side of the motor vehicle that was impacted

- Amount of brake pressure that was used over time

- Angle at which the steering wheel was being held over time

Information found in black boxes could be useful to:

- Law Enforcement

- Road Safety Officials

- Lawyers

- Loss Adjusters

- Insurance Officials

- Private Investigators

- Vehicle Fleet Managers

- Judiciary

- Victims and Family Members

- Media

- General Public


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