Episode 171 – Tiger Woods Accident, Event Data Recorder and Secure Transportation

In this week’s episodes we are talking about the Tiger Woods accident, Event Data Recorder (EDR) and Secure Transportation. 

The February 23 Tiger Woods accident has created questions concerning the Event Data Recorder (EDR) and ownership of the data collected by the EDR. 

The question of who owns the EDR arose when the L.A. County Sheriff got a search warrant to seize the automotive black box in Tiger Woods’ vehicle. The warrant was issued because a judge believed that there was probable cause to believe a crime may have been committed. Law enforcement sources said that the possible offense is misdemeanor reckless driving. To better understand how this affects Secure Transportation, we need to define the function of the EDR or Black Box. 

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What is the Black Box – EDR 

Since the term “EDR” can be used to cover many different types of devices, we believe it is important to define the term for the purposes of this podcast. When we use the term EDR, we refer to a device installed in a vehicle to record technical vehicle and occupant information for a brief period of time (seconds, not minutes) before, during, and after a crash. For instance, EDRs may record (1) pre-crash vehicle dynamics and system status, (2) driver inputs, (3) vehicle crash signature, (4) restraint usage/deployment status, and (5) post-crash data such as the activation of an automatic collision notification (ACN) system. EDRs are devices that record information related to an “event.” In the context of this Podcast, the event is defined as a vehicle accident or violence.  

EDRs have and can make a major impact on highway safety, assisting in real-world data collection to better define the auto safety problem, aid law enforcement, and understand the specific aspects of a crash.

ISDA has written articles concerning Secure Transportation, Security Driving, and the EDR – one of the articles was called “Your Car Is Watching You“. The article is an explanation of an accident that occurred with the then Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts.  

A Case History 

On Nov 2nd, 2013, former Massachusetts Lt. Governor Tim Murray was driving on an icy road at 65 MPH when his car skidded into a rock ledge and flipped; at least that was what the Lt. Governor’s recollection of the accident.   

Murray had initially told police that he was traveling near the 65 mph speed limit, that he was wearing his seat belt, and hit black ice on the roadway. But the EDR data showed he accelerated from 75 mph to more than 100 mph as he left the roadway, and that the impact speed was 92 mph. 

The data also indicated no seatbelt use and no application of the brakes or turn of the steering wheel before hitting the ledge. The information which dramatically contradicted the Lt Governor’s recollection was collected and supplied by the vehicle’s EDR 

It is estimated that about 96 percent of passenger cars on the market come equipped from the factory with “Event Data Recorders,” We would guess that if you are driving an executive vehicle, it is equipped with an EDR. Your car’s manual will most likely state whether your model contains an EDR, though it may not provide much detail about the device. 

Back then in 2013 and now, with the Tiger Woods accident, the same question was brought up.  

Who Owns the EDR Data? 

Throughout the states, the data from the EDR has been accepted in criminal prosecutions and civil litigation. Generally, the data contained within an EDR is treated as the property of the vehicle owner and will require the consent of the vehicle’s owner to access the information.  

From the National Law Review:

On Dec 4,2015, the Driver Privacy Act of 2015 (“Act”) was enacted as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (H.R.22)

We suggest all those that supply Secure Transportation or rent vehicles to provide Secure Transportation or have leased vehicles or conduct driver training with a rental car to examine Driver Privacy Act. 

The law applies to any data retained by an EDR installed in a vehicle and makes clear that the data belongs to the owner of the vehicle or, in the case of a leased vehicle, the lessee or user of the vehicle in which the event data recorder is installed. We have not seen a clear definition of who owns the EDR Data in a vehicle that has been rented. 

The Act provides that data recorded or transmitted by an EDR may not be accessed by a person other than the vehicle’s owner or lessee. But and it is a big But -There are some exceptions – one of them is –  

as authorized by a court or judicial or administrative authority, subject to the standards for admission into evidence required by that court or other administrative authority. 

This exception is what seems to be the catalyst from the Tiger Woods warrant. 


Who else can access the information is a point of contention. Automakers would like the right to access the information for numerous reasons, including safety, to make sure systems work the way they should, and to check for defects. The original purpose of the Black Box was to assist automakers in the task of producing safer vehicles, but other parties that want a black box’s car crash data can include police and other law enforcement agencies that are investigating an accident, insurance companies looking into a claim, lawyers representing parties in car-crash lawsuits, and accident reconstruction consultants working for any of the above. 

All this tends to create confusion concerning data ownership. To rectify that situation, 17 states have passed Event Data Recorder regulation over the past decade. Under the theory that car owners have privacy rights, many of the state laws require automakers to notify new-car buyers that vehicles contain black boxes, such as in the owner’s manual. State laws also spell out the conditions under which police or other parties can obtain EDR information without an owner’s consent, such as with a court order; for dispatching emergency personnel; diagnosing, servicing, or repairing the vehicle; or probable cause in an accident. The National Council of State Legislatures maintains an updated list of state Event Data Recorder laws

If you are supplying Secure Transportation or are a Security Driver, be aware that in the event of an accident, it is a possibility that your driving habits before, during, and after that accident will be examined and analyzed with computer accuracy.  

Those who examine the data will know your lateral acceleration – the rate of de-acceleration – speed – accelerator position – how hard you pressed on the brake – steering wheel angle – vehicle roll angle – the number of times the vehicle was started – if the driver and the front passenger had their seatbelts on airbag deployment front seat position – and the number of impacts during a crash. 

So, in the event of an accident or a security event, don’t try to change the story of what happened – be as accurate as you can. As a point of interest, if you supply driver training and are using a rental car, keep all the above in mind in the event of an accident with the training vehicle, the rental car company will know exactly what happened. 

We suggest that practitioners who supply secure transportation and those who are security drivers understand that there is a black box in your vehicle that is using the science of driving that can, in the event of an accident or security event, measure your performance during that event.  

National Law Review 


Automobile Event Data Recorders (Black Boxes) and Privacy 


Privacy of Data from Event Data Recorders: State Statutes 


If you supply Secure Transportation Services In California  

California S.B. 27, “Shine the Light” Law 


If you have an interest in going much deeper into these types of topics, we invite you to check out the International Security Driver Association’s website and get access to the encyclopedia of executive protection and secure transportation – The ISDA knowledge center. The knowledge shared encompasses a wide range of Executive Protection and Secure Transportation focused topics with resources, information, and metrics. 

 For more information on all of the member benefits, head over to https://isdacenter.org

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