You’ve heard about those “black boxes” on airplanes that record data used to determine the cause of a crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to soon propose regulations requiring automobile manufacturers to install similar equipment on all new cars and light trucks.

What most motorists don’t know is that automakers on their own have been quietly installing data-recording devices in some vehicles for years.

The devices can record the actions of drivers and the responses of their cars and pickup trucks.

According to an Associated Press article, when a car equipped with such devices “is involved in a crash or when its airbags deploy, inputs from the vehicle’s sensors during the five to 10 seconds before impact are automatically preserved.

That’s usually enough to record things like how fast the car was traveling and whether the driver applied the brake, was steering erratically or had a seat belt on.”

Sounds like a good thing — especially when it comes to lawsuits involving both drivers and manufacturers. Such equipment can be useful in placing blame where it belongs.

Also, the recorders can help identify defects in automobiles, showing manufacturers things they need to correct.

Such devices, however, are not without controversy.

Already privacy advocates are insisting on rules and limits on how much information can be gathered and how it can be used.

Perhaps they’ll make a valid argument for some limits, but we doubt it.

In our view, the benefits of using reliable data to produce safer vehicles, as well as helping establish accurate blame for crashes, outweigh privacy concerns.

— Enterprise-Journal,

McComb, Miss., Dec. 10

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