You Have the Right to Slow Down: Your Car’s Black Box Speed Data OK to Use in Criminal Case

On June 25th the Philadelphia Superior Court held in Commonwealth v. Safka, that EDR, that is, electronic data recording or “black box” speed data, is admissible in a criminal case to show the speed of a vehicle involved a crash resulting in death. Com. v. Safka, No. 1312 WDA 2012 (Pa Super. Decided June 25, 2014).

According to the Court, “(t)he origin of EDR technology dates back to 1974. In 1994, General Motors was the first manufacturer to utilize it in a production vehicle. See id. Other manufacturers then subsequently adopted it: Ford in 1997, Toyota in 2001, and Chrysler in 2005.

The technology was originally designed to detect problems with the vehicle’s safety system, specifically, the airbag deployment system. To do so, the vehicle first monitors the two drive wheels to determine the speed of the vehicle. See id. at 197. This information is then transmitted to the EDR, and stored in a temporary memory known as a buffer.

The buffer continually collects and temporarily stores the last five (5) seconds of data. In the event of an airbag deployment, the EDR writes the information from the buffer to a permanent memory that can be retrieved after a crash.”

The Court held that the use of black box speed data evidence is not “novel scientific evidence” that required a special expert analysis before it could be admitted into evidence. Although this was a case of first impression in Pennsylvania, the Court noted that EDR evidence has been allowed in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

The court did not address the issue of whether or not a search warrant would be needed for the police to retrieve the information from the car after the crash. (See our recent blog post about the U.S. Supreme Court case on searching cell phones after arrest, Riley v. California).

According to a July 2014 report by the RIMKUS Consulting Group most of the vehicles sold in the United States now have EDR technology. If your vehicle is in an accident and the airbags deployed, the speed of your vehicle at the time will be logged into the onboard computer. You should take steps to preserve that evidence before your car is repaired.

If you are involved in an accident call the experienced lawyers at The Mazza Law Group, P.C. to be sure your rights are protected. For a copy of our free “What to do in an Accident” glove box insert call us at (814) 237-6255 or email us at

Photo credit: mtoome / 123RF Stock Photo

You Have the Right to Slow Down: Your Car’s Black Box Speed Data OK to Use in Criminal Case was last modified: July 22nd, 2014 by William Arbuckle