In motor vehicle accidents resulting in death or serious injury, there are often civil suits. In such cases, there is often controversy as to the speed of the vehicle at the time of the accident, the force of impact, whether the driver was braking or taking evasive action, whether seat belts were being used, and whether the airbag properly deployed. Were the injuries incurred consistent with the account of the accident, the use of seat belts, and the result of a deploying air
bag? The forensic pathologist might be asked to answer those questions pertaining to injuries. Unfortunately, in regard to seat belt use, more often than not, a lap or chest belt does not leave identifiable markings on the body.
Virtually all of the aforementioned questions regarding the vehicle, the actions of the driver, use of seat belts and deployment of air bags will no longer be speculative. Motor vehicles are now being equipped with Sensing Diagnostic Modules ("black boxes"). Some manufacturers have been equipping their cars with these devices for years (e.g., Mercedes). These devices are continually monitoring a number of the vehicle functions (speed, throttle position, engine RPM, brake use, impact velocity, seat belt use, airbag deployment, etc.). On impact, the device stores all the recorded data collected over the past 5 sec or so. This can then be played back to determine the events immediately preceding and at the time of crash.
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