An Event Data Recorder (EDR) is a device installed on a motor vehicle that records technical vehicle information and occupant information for seconds before, during, and after a crash. Specifically, the devices record information related to “events,” often meaning car crashes. The primary purpose of an EDR is to monitor and assess vehicle safety system performance. EDRs are sometimes referred to as “black boxes” or as “sensing and diagnostic modules,” but a black box is actually the official term for the event recording device for airplanes, trains, and ships and they capture much more data than EDRs.
EDRs constantly record driving and car system information but only save it after some type of physical event, like a crash or hitting a pothole or curb.
Most new vehicles have EDR devices installed. Some estimates indicate that about 64% of passenger vehicles after 2005 have some EDR capability. Starting in 2005, most car companies placed a statement in the vehicle owner’s manual to indicate if the vehicle has an EDR. EDRs are integral parts of the airbag control system, so the EDR cannot safely be removed from cars that have them.
EDRs are helpful in collecting data to learn more about car safety on highways, aiding law enforcement, understanding the specific aspects of a crash, and helping build your personal injury case after a car accident. EDR data is currently used by law enforcement, private accident reconstructionists, auto manufacturers, car insurance companies, fleet management, and government researchers to assist in accurately evaluating crashes.
The information captured by EDRs help provide a more effective evaluation of: potential fault in a car accident, fraud, liability, witness accounts, and more.
What Do EDRs Record? Examples of Information Captured When You’re in a Car Crash
An EDR typically includes sensors located throughout the vehicle to perform various functions. Most cars only have one central processing unit that is located in a well-protected area such as under the driver's seat.
All cars manufactured after September 2010 that voluntarily are equipped with EDRs are required to record 15 data elements, but manufacturers could include more. Here is an example of some of the data recorded:
- Precrash vehicle dynamics and system status information for about 5 seconds before a crash
- Speed logs such as the speed at impact and following impact
- Driver inputs for about 5 seconds before a crash
- Such as whether the gas or brake pedal was pressed
- Vehicle crash severity signature (such as the force of impact)
- Restraint usage, such as if the seatbelt was buckled 1 second before the crash or if the seatbelt locked
- Airbag deployment status - including if the system was working 1 second before the crash
- Post-crash data, including an automatic collision notification system
- Door openings
- Gear changes
- Ignition or remote starting data
- Vehicle warnings and alerts
- Auto-response and distraction prevention software activity
- Autonomous vehicle server-client exchanges
Additional Information Available From Your Car Includes:
EDRs are not the only thing in your car that can store data. Here are additional examples of ways your driving data could be stored.
- Your Key: did you know that your car’s key is a data storage device? Your key can store information about your car, such as miles driven, vehicle maintenance activity, driver profile data, and other miscellaneous activity attributed to your vehicle.
- Local Software on your Car: monitors your speed and distance, vehicle status information such as pressure, oil and gas levels, climate control, sound and radio, smart applications, and more
- Cloud-based software on your car: this software integrates with local vehicle databases for status checks on vehicle maintenance, mileage, first response features, and more.
- Wireless routers or hotspots: it is possible that you have a subscription agreement related to tech in your car that may waive certain privacy rights.
- 3rd-party “smart” applications: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Onstar and more that are integrated into your vehicle may also subject users to ‘tracking-by-consent.’
- Hard drive: Your vehicle’s hard drive may also store data that is a point of interest.
- Theft prevention technology: may also result in a privacy waiver or consent to search, depending on the use of the technology.
- Tires: yes, even your tires may have Radio Frequency Identification data embedded.
How do Personal Injury Lawyers Use EDRs to Help Clients Prove Their Cases?
Using EDR data in civil cases, such as personal injury cases for car accidents, is on the rise as the data is largely accepted as a source of reliable, empirical evidence. In a criminal context, EDR evidence has directly led to come driver’s convictions, but it has also led to exonerations for others.
EDR data cannot be accessed by anyone other than the owner or lessee of a car unless a court order authorizes retrieval, the owner consents to retrieval for any purpose, or to determine the appropriate emergency medical response to a car crash. The data can also be anonymously retrieved for traffic safety research.
Because EDRs are electronically triggered by sensing problems or faults in a vehicle’s engine, airbag deployment, or sudden change in wheel speed or velocity, they can house information that is vital to understanding a car accident, what caused it, and who was at fault.
Many personal injury cases include disagreements as to who actually caused a car accident. EDRs offer valuable insight into what actually happened beyond what the people involved say or remember happening. If there is a rear-end collision, for example, the EDR can help attorneys know whether the vehicle behind was traveling the speed limit, whether either driver hit their brakes, and the speeds the vehicles were traveling upon impact.
Accident reconstructionists, experts many personal injury attorneys hire in the course of a car accident case, use EDR data to provide a clearer picture of an accident. Because EDRs can’t be tampered with, they hold very crucial evidence that can help prove an injury case.
The main benefit, in an ideal scenario, of EDR data is that it can be used to confirm previous findings and support your case and entitlement to damages from the other driver.
For example, imagine a rear-end collision occurs on a highway and the defendant argues that the car in front was somehow at fault. The EDR, however, may reveal that the car in the rear was traveling at 75MPH and did not brake until less than one second before impact. This data would eliminate the need to debate about speed, braking, etc. between accident reconstructionists and can help support a favorable settlement for the people in the car that were smashed into.
Crash Data Retrieval Process
Crash Data Retrieval (CDR) is a term for when special equipment is used to retrieve the data from a car’s event data recorder. The specialized tool is able to retrieve the EDR data stored in the control modules of passenger cars, light trucks, and SUVs.
One popular brand of a CDR tool is Bosch. The tool is connected to a car and allows CDR technicians and experts to retrieve the EDR file. Once retrieved, then additional software is used to translate the information into a readable format to review and analyze. GIT and Tesla are additional CDR tool makers, and they simply call their retrieval tools an “EDR tool.”
The process of retrieving EDR data does NOT reset, remove or modify data stored in the EDR.
How EDR Info Helped Accident Reconstructionists Understand a Serious Pedestrian Accident
In a serious pedestrian injury case we settled for the maximum insurance benefit of $250,000; accident reconstructionists used information from the driver’s event data recorder to help understand exactly how the accident happened.
Mary*, our client, was struck by a car traveling at full speed as she crossed a busy roadway on a Saturday afternoon. Mary was thrown more than 60 feet from the place of impact.
As police investigated the crash, video footage was recovered from a nearby business and police were able to run a scan on the car that hit Mary to see what information the car’s event data recorder captured at the time of the accident.
In this case, the scan was able to let police know the driver was traveling 39.5 MPH, just within the 40 MPH posted speed limit, which was integral to determining whether the driver should also face criminal charges. Based on the speed the driver was traveling, as determined from the EDR, it would have taken the driver a total of nearly 150 feet to come to a complete stop. Based on this information, the reconstructionist was able to determine that if the driver had seen Mary at the soonest possible opportunity, he still would not have had time to react and stop his vehicle. This revelation helped Mary make the difficult decision to settle her case instead of going to court and trying the case to a jury.
*Mary is not our client's real name.
Do Motorcycles Have EDRS?
Some motorcycles are equipped with EDRs, and newer motorcycles are much more likely to be equipped with EDRs. If a motorcycle has an EDR, it must follow the same guidelines as cars and is required to record at least 15 variables outlined by the NHTSA, including speed, accelerator and brake information, etc.
To find out if your motorcycle has an EDR installed, the best place to check is your user manual or you could call your motorcycle manufacturer. If your bike was manufactured after 2014, it is much more likely to have an EDR but it doesn’t appear to be commonly installed in bikes yet. The installation of EDRs is completely voluntary. If installed, however, the NHTSA provides necessary guidelines for manufacturers to abide by.
- Honda’s GoldWing Airbag model
- Kawasaki Ninja 300, Z1000, Ninja 1000 and Ninja ZX-6R models
A 2018 report, however, indicated that EDR technology has not been widely adopted by motorcycle manufacturers.
Injured In A Massachusetts Car Accident? Call Or Text Spada Law Group For A Free Consultation
We’ve helped thousands of people in Massachusetts over the last 30 years get the recovery they need after a car accident. In fact, Spada Law Group has been recognized as one of the Top 20 Car Accident Attorneys in Boston for 2022. Whether you were driving, walking, biking, or on a motorcycle - Spada Law Group’s injury lawyers can help if you were injured in an accident. As personal injury lawyers, you never pay us a penny until we win your case.
We have offices in Chelsea, Peabody, and Worcester, but we proudly serve the entire state and can meet with you remotely from the comfort of your own home. Contact us for a free consultation to see how we can help you get the recovery you deserve after your injury.