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Archive for Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Black boxes’ recommended for passenger vehicles

August 4, 2004

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— The government should require data recorders in all passenger vehicles, federal safety officials said Tuesday in a recommendation arising from the investigation of a car crash that killed 10 people and injured 63.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators concluded the 86-year-old driver had stepped on the gas instead of the brake and plowed into a farmers market in Santa Monica, Calif., on July 16, 2003.

They came to that determination without testimony from the driver, George Weller, who refused on his lawyer's advice to talk with the investigators.

Investigators came to their decision on Weller's actions after ruling out mechanical failure, weather, fatigue, alcohol or drugs.

The board concluded investigators could have gained a better understanding of Weller's behavior had his 1992 Buick LeSabre been outfitted with an event data recorder, or "black box."

The NTSB recommended black boxes two months after the top federal auto safety agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said it saw no need to require them because automakers are adding them voluntarily to more models.

Flight data recorders, which despite the black box characterization are bright orange, are aboard all commercial aircraft. They can collect more than a thousand pieces of data about an airliner that investigators can review to determine the cause of a crash.

The highway safety agency says between 65 percent and 90 percent of 2004 vehicles have some sort of recording ability.

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