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Submitted by New Jersey Vehicle Accident Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
A measure that would restrict access to information on electronic data recorders, more commonly known as “black boxes,” that are installed in automobiles has won final legislative approval.
On March 16, the Senate voted 38-0 to approve the Assembly bill, A3579, which had passed the lower house of the Legislature in a 68-0 vote on Dec. 19, 2014.
Citing privacy concerns, proponents of the bill say the information collected by an automobile’s event data recorder, which includes speed, location, time of use and the number of people inside the vehicle, is the property of the vehicle’s owner. The legislation would restrict how that information may be obtained from third parties, such as law enforcement, insurance carriers and adversaries in civil matters.
The sponsors are Assemblymen Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, Daniel Benson, D-Mercer, Declan O’Scanlon Jr., R-Monmouth, and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has made the installation of EDRs mandatory. But there are currently no rules stating who has ownership or access to the information on an EDR, the sponsors have said, adding that it is necessary to have protections in place for automobile owners before EDRs become commonplace and the amount of information collected and stored increases.
Under A3579, which was reported with amendments by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on Feb. 24, law enforcement would only be allowed access to the information after obtaining a search warrant, a court order or, except where information regarding a vehicle’s location is sought, a grand jury subpoena. An adverse party in a civil matter would have to produce a discovery order.
Also, under the bill, an automobile repair facility would be allowed to download information from an EDR with the owner’s consent and emergency responders could access the information for the sole purpose of providing medical assistance in the event of a crash.
The legislation prohibits an automobile owner from destroying an EDR with the intent of preventing access to the data within two years following an accident that has caused injury or death. An owner who violates the statute could face a $5,000 civil penalty.
In New Jersey, EDRs gained notoriety in 2007 when a State Police vehicle carrying Gov. Jon Corzine crashed on the Garden State Parkway. Corzine was seriously injured in the accident and the vehicle’s EDR revealed that it had been traveling at 91 mph on the 65 mph highway in the five seconds prior to the accident.
The legislation has the support of the American Automobile Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
Efforts to restrict access to EDRs also are being made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy rights group based in San Francisco. It is urging the NHTSA to adopt regulations that would require auto manufacturers to state in owners’ manuals that information on an EDR belongs to the owner; prohibit EDRs from collecting video, audio or location information; and limit retention of information to five seconds before an accident.
Originally published here by New Jersey Law Journal