How many car drivers know whether their car has an electronic data recorder (EDR), more colloquially called a ‘black box’ installed in it? Most new cars and trucks have an EDR fitted. In fact, all new cars manufactured since 2014 must have an EDR fitted by law, but many models had them fitted well before that date.

What does an EDR do?

Most people are aware of the importance of finding an airplane ‘black box’ after a major crash. News about the black box recording is often splashed all over the TV news, even though airplane crashes are relatively rare. These devices are electronic recording instruments housed in a strongly built enclosure. They record many details of the flight before the crash and allow investigators piece together what went wrong. The same applies to a vehicle EDR, although the parameters recorded are obviously different. The EDR is able to provide details of many different but important factors before and immediately after a crash. There could be as many as 20 to 30 different parameters recorded, including things like:

  • speed;
  • when brakes were applied;
  • how hard brakes were applied;
  • acceleration and deceleration variables;
  • steering variables;
  • whether seat belts were used;
  • whether airbags were deployed;
  • engine trouble codes;
  • audio or video recording.

How is an EDR record valuable after a crash?

Some crashes are open and shut cases. There may have been several witnesses. The drivers were honest about what caused the crash. Signs left behind by the crash impact point to the cause. A nearby traffic monitoring camera recorded the crash. Unfortunately, not all crashes are like that. They may be considerable disagreement about what happened. No eye witnesses or nearby video cameras. Trucking companies in particular are often quick to get someone to the scene and remove obvious evidence of any wrong doing or something that could implicate the driver.

If this has happened to you and you are struggling to find evidence of who was at fault, something that is needed for a personal injury claim, examination of the other car or truck’s EDR may be helpful. It can help to confirm, for example, whether the other driver was speeding, or driving erratically or even whether their account of what happened is backed up by the recoding. The EDR may also suggest a mechanical defect, such as the brakes or steering.

Who can access an EDR?

Analyzing an EDR is not something that any ordinary person can do. In the past, only the vehicle manufacturer was able to decode the electronic information recorded. That’s now changed as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses the information regularly and has mandated that all new EDRs installed track a minimum of 15variables. Police, crash investigators, attorneys and insurance assessors are all interested parties and can gain access to EDR data after a crash.

Don’t rely on black box data for evidence in a personal injury claim

EDR data is not foolproof, mainly because there is no guarantee that the data will ever be recovered after a crash. A serious crash may destroy the instrument or the data (they are not built to the same degree of ruggedness as airplane black boxes). They may wipe off recorded data automatically after a specific time period or after a specific number of ignition start attempts (common after a crash). The data may not be sufficient to provide relevant information by itself even if it is recovered. Other standard evidence that can be used to support a personal injury claim includes:

  • eye witness statements;
  • photos of the damage done, injuries, positions of vehicles;
  • the police accident report;
  • car damage report by a qualified mechanic;
  • video recording by a surveillance camera (e.g. at an intersection).

Contact Nashville Injury Attorney if You Have Been Involved in a Car or Truck Accident


You are more likely to recover compensation from an at-fault driver’s insurer if you use an experienced car accident attorney. Keith Williams and his team of personal injury attorneys serving Nashville have built a solid reputation for successful car accident claims. They have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for their many clients. Ring the office for an online or phone appointment at 615-395-3003.