Bruce Jenner and the Mystery of the Black Box
By now you have most likely heard that Bruce Jenner, once an American Olympic hero turned reality TV star, is in the midst of a personal physical transformation, and that he was involved in serious car accident. The personal transformation discussion can be left for another time, but the car accident that he was involved in, which resulted in a woman being killed, has brought to light an important investigative tool which exists in most cars on the road today – the “black box”.
Black Boxes, also known as an electronic data recorder (“EDR”), were first used in airplanes. Even today, when an airplane crashes you hear investigators discussing how and when the black box is going to be retrieved so that the cause of the crash can be determined. A car’s black box is no different. The black box is a computer device that is triggered electronically by engine computer signals. The black box can also be activated by sudden changes in wheel movement or a car’s speed, by activation of your seat belt restraint system, or even by your car’s air bag sensor.
While black boxes have been used for years in airplane accident investigations, it is only recently that investigators of serious car accidents have started relying on them. The problem with investigating a car accident is the people involved in the accident usually have a motivation to “stretch the truth” about how the accident occurred for fear of being sued for the accident injuries and damage caused in the accident. This is particularly true for the accident Bruce Jenner was involved in.
Jenner was travelling down California’s Pacific Coast Highway, a road similar to A1A in Florida. Jenner apparently rear-ended a Lexus pushing it into oncoming traffic. The Lexus was then had a head-on accident with a SUV travelling in the opposite direction. The driver of the Lexus was killed. Jenner was uninjured. While witness statements should provide more details of how the accident occurred, the black box can prove indisputable information – directly from the engines and frames of the cars being driven by Jenner and the other drivers – that may tell which driver is at fault in the accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) passed a law in 2012 requiring black boxes to record fifteen different measurements of a vehicle. These include the speed, whether a car is accelerating or decelerating, the braking of a vehicle, use of a seat belt, the force of impact between vehicles, and whether the airbags were triggered. This information, along with damage to the vehicles, skid marks, location of the cars at the accident scene, and statements from witnesses, can be used to piece together exactly how and why an accident happened.
From initial reports, it looks like the family of the woman killed in the Bruce Jenner car accident has a claim against Jenner for causing the accident, and maybe against one or more of the other cars involved in the accident. Jenner rear-ended the Lexus. At least in a Florida car accident, the vehicle that hits from behind in a rear end car accident is presumed to be at fault. Time will tell whether the black box will offer additional information about how and why this serious car accident occurred, and whether the woman’s estate will need to retain an experienced car accident attorney.