"Black Box" Recorders Required for All Vehicles by September 2014
The event data recorders, also known as "black box" recorders, operate similar to those installed in commercial aircraft, and are designed to record the final seconds of driving data prior to an impact. This data includes, but is not limited to, vehicle speed, brake use, steering angle, whether the seat belts were in use at the time of impact, and more.
Perhaps the highest profile case where a vehicle event data recorder's information was used to determine what happened in the moments leading up to an accident was the single-vehicle crash of New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's Chevrolet Suburban in April 2007. The Suburban, driven by a New Jersey State Trooper Robert Rasinski, veered to avoid a vehicle that was taking evasive action to avoid a second vehicle.
Corzine was sitting in the Suburban's front passenger seat when the accident occurred, and suffered severe injuries, including multiple broken bones and head lacerations, and was placed on a ventilator for days because of broken ribs. In the investigation that followed, the event data recorder showed that Corzine was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, and that Trooper Rasinski was traveling at 91 mph prior to losing control of the Suburban.
Some consumers who might not want an event data recorder in their new vehicle may surmise that buying a vehicle today, rather than in the future, means they won't have one aboard. According to NBC News, 96% of new models on sale today already have the black box technology installed.