Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

The Blackbox – Breach of civil liberties or a route to cheaper car insurance?

Blackbox And Insurance Claims

Most people are familiar with the concept of the ‘black box recorder’ fitted to civil airliners.

The recording of electronic data regarding the aircrafts engines and navigational systems together with the verbal communications with the pilot – in a virtually indestructible box – are seen as a huge aid in air accident investigation and have almost certainly been responsible for saving many lives since they were introduced.

The advancements in micro electronics have now made it possible for something similar to be fitted to vehicles on our roads.

Generally referred to as ‘telematics’ or ‘telemetry’ the idea of being able to monitor the way a car has been driven irrespective of whether it has been involved in an accident is currently a hot topic in the insurance industry.

The concept itself is not new of course. Commercial heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles such as buses have, for along time, been fitted with tachographs which measure in a basic way speed and duration of driving.

Telematics is simply a more sophisticated and detailed data gathering process similar in some ways to the operation of GPS.

Insurers are suggesting that the availability of such information would enable them to reduce premiums. Some are suggesting that they ought to become compulsory.

Other countries are apparently embracing the idea rather more swiftly. In Italy, for example, insurers are already required to offer a ‘telematic’ policy as part of their product line.

In my view compulsion is unlikely but I suspect that in the future this will be an option for drivers and will be of particular interest to young or inexperienced drivers as a means of reducing premiums.

The insurer’s interest of course arises from their ability to understand how a vehicle has been driven.

The extent to which such a device might be an affront to those concerned about the encroachment of ‘big brother’ may well depend upon who is able to download the data and under what circumstances.

As the cost of these devices comes down it may not be long before they are offered as an option on new vehicles – or indeed fitted as standard with a choice as whether they are rendered live or not.

There is, however, potential spin off benefit in relation to the safety of those on the road

What if the black box was able to detect when a vehicle had been involved in a serious collision and was able to send out a distress signal or call the emergency services?

This was of course the purpose of their being fitted to aircraft originally

I have acted in a number of road traffic accident claims where the victim remained undiscovered often with serious if not fatal consequences following a collision.

It is often motorcyclists who are vulnerable to this where the rider and machine are much more difficult to detect once they have left the road.

An automatic distress beacon might well have lead to their early discovery.

I venture to suggest that had the vehicle driven by those unfortunate people, whose car was crushed by a landslip near Beaminster in Dorset recently, been fitted with such a device they might not have remained undiscovered for so long.

In that case sadly it would not have saved their lives but I can imagine other circumstances where it might have avoided such a tragedy.

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