NHTSA scraps plan to require event data recorders in cars and trucks

Automakers have already complied, but consumer group says not so fast

WASHINGTON — The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Tuesday it is withdrawing a 2012 Obama administration proposal to require event data recorders in all new cars and trucks because it says automakers have voluntarily installed the devices in nearly all vehicles.

The agency, known as NHTSA, had proposed requiring the devices, sometimes known as "black boxes" in all vehicles, but had not finalized it.

The head of consumer advocacy group Center for Auto Safety questioned the regulator's move. In an email, director Jason Levine said the decision to withdraw the proposal "seems especially problematic as the need for uniform crash data elements to assist crash investigators only increases with every iteration of advanced safety technology."

NHTSA could not immediately be reached for additional comment.

The agency also proposed in December 2012 requiring the capture of safety-related data in the seconds before and during a motor vehicle crash. In 2006, NHTSA required the collection of certain data including vehicle speed, crash forces at the moment of impact, whether an airbag deployed or if the brakes were applied in the moments before a crash and if seat belts were fastened.

NHTSA said in a statement it was withdrawing the proposal because nearly 100 percent of manufacturers voluntarily equip vehicles with the devices.

The agency added it is working on a proposal to update pre-crash recording requirements for event data recorders (EDRs) that was required by Congress in a 2015 law.

That law requires the agency to establish the "appropriate period" for vehicles to capture data to provide "accident investigators with vehicle-related information pertinent to crashes involving such motor vehicles."

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A 2014 congressional report said data from the devices can be used by law enforcement agencies to help determine why an accident occurred and is used by automakers to better understand vehicle performance in crash situations and by safety officials to probe safety issues.

In 2006, NHTSA adopted regulations requiring EDRs to collect data if they were installed in vehicles and steps to ensure the survivability of the data in a crash. Automakers are free to collect additional data if they choose.

The National Transportation Safety Board in 2004 recommended the devices be made mandatory in all vehicles after a crash at a farmers' market in Santa Monica, California, killed nine people and the agency could not determine exactly what occurred.

The Trump administration has vowed to remove what it deems unnecessary regulations.

Reporting by David Shepardson

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