Electronic Data Recorders in Vehicles – NHTSA’s Regulation and Colorado’s Law


Electronic Data Recorders in Vehicles – NHTSA’s Regulation and Colorado’s Law

By:  Chad Lieberman, Esq.

In 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) established a regulation for event data records (EDRs).  49 C.F.R. § 563.1, et seq.  The regulation applies to all light vehicles manufactured on or after September 1, 2012.  However, it is important to note that the regulation does not require EDRs to be installed in vehicles.  Rather, the regulation establishes standardized requirements for data elements, data capture, data format, data retrieval and data crash survivability for vehicles manufactured with an EDR.

Of note, the regulation contains a set of mandatory data to capture and the format in which to display the captured data.  49 C.F.R. §§ 563.8, 563.9.  Additionally, the regulation requires each manufacturer of a vehicle equipped with an EDR to ensure that a tool capable of accessing and retrieving the EDR data is commercially available.  49 C.F.R. § 563.12.

In Colorado, the retrieval and disclosure of EDR data is governed by statute, C.R.S § 12-6-401, et seq.  The statute provides that the EDR data is the property of the vehicle owner.  Generally speaking, retrieval of the data by someone other than law enforcement requires the permission of the owner.  Best practices include obtaining written permission from the owner prior to attempting the retrieval of the data.  Likewise, disclosure of the data generally requires permission of the owner but is also permitted if required by discovery obligations and/or court order.  Please review the statute for specifics.

Lastly, many people believe, or hope, that data from an EDR will provide detailed information about the nature of a crash.  In many cases, the data will be of little value.  In the cases in which the data is useful, be sure to work with your expert to understand how the data is generated and when and where in the crash sequence the data relates.  For example, EDRs require a triggering event to begin recording data – often called “algorithm enablement” (AE).  Understanding what causes AE and when AE occurred is vital to your understanding of the data.