The “black box” inside your car is meant to answer questions about your accident.
Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray is quickly finding out that it creates them.
Unless you plow into a Greyhound bus, it’s unlikely the police or your car insurance company would ever even look at the information recorded by your car’s event data recorder. (See “The spy living inside your car.”)
But you are not a public figure battling the rumor mill.
Last week, in the aftermath of an early morning crash in November that totaled a state car, Murray asked that data from the car’s event data recorder be released to the public. The data showed that the car had reached speeds as high as 108 mph before the crash, that Murray had not worn a seat belt, that he took no evasive maneuvers and that he did not touch the brakes before the 2007 Ford Crown Victoria left Interstate 190, hit a rock ledge and rolled twice.
Murray was unhurt, and he passed a sobriety test at the scene.
Murray had originally told police that he was traveling near the 65 mph speed limit, that he was wearing his seat belt and that he hit black ice on the roadway. But the black-box data showed he accelerated from 75 mph to more than 100 mph as he left the roadway, and that impact speed was 92 mph.
State police promptly issued Murray a $555 ticket for speeding -- doing 108 mph in a 65-mph zone -- and not wearing a seat belt. (Learn more about the ways tickets and accidents affect your record.) Murray says he’ll pay for the totaled car as well.
Data are one thing; interpretation is another
This week, in a “Dear Friends” letter, Murray asked his supporters not to buy into “false rumors and wild speculation’’ the data have unleashed. Murray and state police now say the lieutenant governor probably fell asleep at the wheel.
Others don’t think so. Newspapers paid their own experts to analyze the data.
"Just a couple seconds before losing control, he floors it," accident reconstruction analyst Bruce McNally told the Boston Herald. "That's not typical of a driver who falls asleep. I don't think I've ever seen it occur. A typical driver who falls asleep, their foot would come off the pedal."
The 43-year-old Democrat, seen as a possible future gubernatorial candidate, had been the subject of a number of newspaper stories about his ties to a housing scandal in the weeks before the Nov. 2 wreck.
He’ll certainly suffer under Massachusetts’ Safe Driver Insurance Plan laws, which tie discounts and surcharges to the driver’s record. Assuming Murray’s was clean before the incident, he will pay 28 percent more for his mandatory bodily injury and property damage liability coverages and 20 percent more for his collision coverage.