Management & Operations

Black Boxes on Buses May Block False Claims

Posted on April 19, 2000

A common problem facing the transportation industry today is injury claims resulting from minor accidents. The Utah Transit Authority, as well as several other transportation agencies around the country, has begun investigating “black box” technology that will provide objective evidence of what passengers experience during an accident. “We were interested because we’ve done some impact studies before on our buses and found that the forces involved in an impact inside a bus are generally not very severe," said David Pitcher, a claims administrator with the UTA "Yet, we get a lot of injury claims from passengers claiming that they were injured in accidents that don’t cause a whole lot of damage to the bus.” The UTA tested the latest black-box technology from Independent Witness Inc., of Salt Lake City, by crashing a bus into a passenger car. At the time of impact, the box measures and records the date, time, severity, magnitude and direction related to the accident. “We were mainly wanting to find out how accurate the product was,” Pitcher said. UTA had an accident reconstructionist onsite to analyze the data and determine accuracy, which was very good, according to Pitcher. “These tests that we performed for the UTA basically delineated that a typical transportation bus can sustain about a 15 to 20 mph impact into a typical passenger vehicle, and it is a trivial event for any occupant on the bus,” said CEO Scott McClellan of Independent Witness. “We totaled a passenger vehicle and measured what occurred on the bus, and the delta-v (forces) were less than what you would experience on an amusement park ride.” Some auto-makers have used similar technology to analyze crash data, but those devices also monitor other components, including driver actions. “That’s all very important information, but it doesn’t help delineate the injury causing potential,” said McClellan. “It sheds light on who’s at fault and who may have contributing negligence.” Such information may stimulate further liability. The technology will help ensure that legitimate claims are properly compensated, while exaggerated claims can be refuted, says McClellan. “We know that certainly when people are injured they deserve to be fairly compensated. And when people are trying to cheat the system there should be some sort of objective means to evaluate that, and currently that condition does not exist," McClellan says. "We provide objective evidence to help both sides reach an amicable settlement quickly with objective evidence, not just speculation and hearsay.”

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