Automobile data recorders

Christie Signs Law Limiting Access to Recorded Car Data

Legislation restricting access to automobile data recorders, similar to airplane “black boxes,” was signed into law 5/11/15 by Gov. Chris Christie.

The new state law is substantially similar to legislation under consideration in the U.S. Senate and echoes privacy concerns in the wake of a federal mandate that all vehicles must be equipped with the devices.

Known as electronic control modules or an event data recorder, the devices record information about a vehicle’s speed, steering and braking, seatbelt use, airbag deployment, and locations, according to A-3579.

The law bars access to the data by anyone but the vehicle owner or owner’s representative, except in situations in which the owner or representative consents to third-party access; if a law enforcement officer obtains it with a search warrant; if the recorded data is used to improve vehicle safety — provided the owner, operator or other vehicle occupant isn’t disclosed — or for vehicle repair by a licensed dealer or service facility; if an emergency responder needs it to determine medical needs; or if the data is subpoenaed or needed for a “legally proper” discovery request or civil action.

The restrictions exclude audio and video data, and the law doesn’t apply to personal video cameras, dashboard cameras or cellphones with recording capabilities.

The law also prohibits altering or deleting data for two years after a crash that results in bodily injury or death. Violations of that provision carry a civil penalty of $5,000 for each offense, although alterations and deletions by automatic overwriting programs won’t be considered knowing violations.

Further, the law mandates a “rebuttable presumption” that a vehicle recycler or scrap recycling facility has no knowledge of the involvement of a motor vehicle in a crash event that resulted in bodily injury or death.

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