New Regulations for Back-Up Cameras

Car backing up

Leslie E. Lovre, Technical Assistant :::::
Federal regulators call them backover events; those heartbreaking accidents, often involving small children, wherein a rearward-moving vehicle strikes and often injures, sometimes fatally, someone standing in or crossing its path. For many years, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) have required rear and side-view mirrors to, in part, help minimize such incidents; yet, studies show that nearly 300 fatalities, and over 18,000 injuries, occur annually due to backover events. In apparent recognition of this risk, some auto manufacturers have begun equipping vehicles with back-up cameras and dash-mounted displays; in fact, all vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less will soon be required to have them. Continue reading “New Regulations for Back-Up Cameras”

Industry Update: New Regulations for Records of Duty Status

New Regulations for Records of Duty Status

Leslie E. Lovre, Technical Assistant ::::
Commercial vehicle operators have long been required to maintain personal Records of Duty Status (RODs); however, RODS had been criticized for being burdensome, inaccurate, and subject to falsification. In response, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCA) proposed a rule requiring that most commercial vehicle operators and carriers use Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) to record a driver’s hours of service. After years of industry debate, pushback, and technological refinement, the ELD rule became effective on December 18, 2017. Here are some of the highlights of the new rule, as provided by the FMSCA: Continue reading “Industry Update: New Regulations for Records of Duty Status”

Do You Know the Difference Between GPS Devices?

GPS Device

Leslie E. Lovre, Technical Assistant ::::
GPS devices have become a common part of forensic automotive and commercial truck crash investigations. So much so that our staff routinely inquires whether vehicles or people involved in a collision or other incident were equipped with a GPS device. What we have discovered, however, is that many still do not understand the sometimes subtle differences between the various kinds of GPS devices, and how those differences relate to acquiring data from them. What follows is a brief summary of the kinds of GPS devices we routinely encounter and how data is typically obtained from them.
Typical consumer GPS devices can be classified into two broad categories: portable and built-in. With respect to portable devices, there are those designed primarily as GPS/navigation tools such as Garmin and TomTom, and those that are part of other devices such as tablets and smart-phones. In either case, a physical connection is required to access data from within them and typically requires the use of a laptop and USB cable. Once connected, the GPS device usually appears on the laptop just like any other media or storage device, and navigating to the relevant data files is routine. Continue reading “Do You Know the Difference Between GPS Devices?”

Every Minute Counts: The Importance of Emergency Warning Placement

Leslie E. Lovre, Technical Assistant ::::
Federal motor carrier safety regulations require commercial trucks to carry emergency flares or reflective triangles. When a commercial truck becomes disabled on a public roadway, the truck operator is required to place those warning devices at specified distances behind the truck and to do so within ten minutes of becoming disabled. This, of course, is intended to reduce the risk of a subsequent collision.
Over the years, our engineers have evaluated numerous collisions involving disabled commercial vehicles. We are typically asked to evaluate the reason for the disablement; however, we are also often asked whether there exists any means to determine if the emergency warnings were placed within the required ten minutes. Historically, these were hard questions to answer, if not impossible. More recently, however, on-board technology such as engine control modules and GPS devices have provided data relative to when a vehicle became disabled. Yet, there remains no built-in method to document when the warnings are placed, leaving this answer subject to witness recall and testimony. However, if a driver could also take a photograph of the triangles or flares with his or her cell phone immediately after placing them, then send that photo in an email or text message, the meta-data from the photo or message would document the placement time which, together with other on-board truck data, could establish a definitive timeline between the placement and disablement. Many trucking companies provide emergency training protocols, but in our experience, adding a simple step of photographing warnings placement could save substantial investigative resources later on.
For additional information on DJS’ Automotive Capabilities, contact Leslie E. Lovre, Technical Assistant, at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

It’s 2017: Do You Know Where Your Tire Pressure is? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Would Like To Know, As Well

Leslie E. Lovre, Technical Assistant ::::
Ten years after its full implementation, the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) in passenger vehicles and light trucks require a federally-mandated review of efficacy at achieving its stated goals. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 138 defines the performance standards for the system that alerts drivers when a tire reaches dangerously low pressures. In practice, most vehicles employ pressure sensors installed within each tire that transmits pressure signals to an on-board computer which, in turn, controls an in-dash warning lamp. To many of us, this lamp has become a trusted indicator of the need to add air and, in some cases, seek tire service. But during a required efficacy review in 2011, the NHTSA discovered that as vehicles age, they were substantially less effective in preventing severe under-inflation than when they were new. Initial theories suggest a relationship between performance and maintenance. NHTSA is ramping up efforts to investigate by seeking data from the general public regarding attitudes and practices relating to these systems. Continue reading “It’s 2017: Do You Know Where Your Tire Pressure is? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Would Like To Know, As Well”

Automotive Alphabet Soup

Event Data Recorder

Leslie E. Lovre, Technical Assistant ::::
Investigating or litigating automotive claims cases, which include the collection and analysis of on-board vehicle data can be a confusing venture owing to the variety of data sources from within the vehicle, and the names that people use to describe those sources. For example, Ford calls its device that controls airbag deployment the RCM – Restraint Control Module – while Chrysler calls their functionally equivalent device the ORC – Occupant Restraint Control. Multiply this difference over the dozens of different automobile manufacturers and the problem is quickly apparent. However, understanding a few basic rules and commonalities should help sort through the “alphabet soup” of automotive forensic technology.
One of the most discussed elements of a forensic investigation relates to the on-board event data recorder (EDR). Thus, EDR becomes the first and perhaps most important acronym. Nearly all modern vehicles are equipped with an EDR; that is the easy part. Where it becomes confusing is identifying the source of that data. Alluded to earlier, the airbag system is the source of much of the event-related data, particularly in passenger vehicles. While it is technically correct, and at times helpful to refer to Chrysler’s ORC or Ford’s RCM, it may be easier, yet just as correct, to refer to any manufacturer’s airbag control module as just that – the ACM. Continue reading “Automotive Alphabet Soup”