"Black Box" recorder in automobiles dramatically increases driver safety

Road Safety International has recently introduced a "black box" device for the family car that records driver speed, acceleration, use of seatbelts, and other data, in much the same way that and airplane's "black box" records flight data.

More than that, the automobile black box actually gives feedback to the motorist in real time, warning of unsafe turns, acceleration, hard breaking, high speeds, and the like. The audible signal gives the driver 10 seconds to modify the problem and only records an "infraction" if the unsafe condition persists after the warning.

This may all sound like some kind of a nightmare "1984" invasion-of-privacy scenario, with every move you make in your car recorded and documented. But corporate fleets and emergency vehicles have been using the system for years; they report an astonishing drop in accident rate when the system and the accompanying driver training are used.

Now Road Safety Int. is planning to offer a $300 unit to private individuals. Their prime target is parents of teenage drivers. The Road Safety web site has experiences of teens and parents who have tried the system. Even accounting for a good bit of PR spin from the company, the testimonials make for some pretty interesting readin.

Ian Ayres and Barry Nalebuff wrote an article about the device for Forbes magazine:
The Berlin highway safety administration found that after the city's police department started using data recorders in their patrol cars, damage during rescue trips fell by 36%. Also in Germany, a taxi company installed these boxes in its fleet and collision rates fell by 66%. In the U.S., Sunstar Emergency Medical Services found that black boxes reduced its ambulance accidents by 95%. If there were a drug as effective in saving lives, people would be clamoring outside the Food & Drug Administration for its approval.
Ayres and Nalebuff conclude that "Fear of getting caught may be a more powerful motivator than fear of getting killed."
[T]hese devices give real-time feedback to drivers when they are doing something dangerous. Ricardo Martinez, the former head of the NHTSA, remembers his days working ambulances in Louisiana. The vehicles had something called a Growler. If he accelerated too fast or took a corner too hard, the machine would squawk. If he didn't slow down, it would squawk louder and make a record of the transgression. When he got back to base, he'd have to explain the indicators. The Growler made him drive more safely.
Road Safety international's black box is essentially a version the Growler adapted for use in passenger cars.

Ayres and Nalebuff think that the automobile black boxes will become common equipment on cars, encouraged by insurance companies who will give good driver discounts to customers who install the box (and maintain good driving records on the system, of course).

Could this be part of the solution to the poor, inattentive, and downright dangerous driving that cyclists and pedestrians see all too often on our city streets? If you have feelings one way or the other, leave a comment about this article . . .