Speed kills, so golf star Tiger Woods is lucky to be alive. According to police the data recorder in his Genesis SUV right before it crashed indicated speeds as high as 87 mph. That’s almost 50 mph above the posted speed limit. The data recorder showed that Woods was at 75 mph when he hit the tree and then rolled over. That recorder also showed he was hitting between 68 mph and 86.99 mph all along that road before the crash.
Speeds leading up to and through crash recorded by data recorder
In an understatement, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Woods was “driving in an unsafe manner for road conditions.” Villanueva has been criticized for giving Woods favorable treatment during the investigation. There were no witnesses. For these reasons, the data recorder was invaluable in determining what happened leading up to the crash.
Both the police and Woods have said he has “no recollection of the crash” or what happened leading up to it. “The primary causal factor for this traffic collision was driving at a speed unsafe for the road conditions and the inability to negotiate the curve of the roadway estimated speeds at the first area of impact were 84 to 87 miles per hour,” Villanueva said. Much of that determination came as a result of what the data recorder revealed.
The good and the bad of data retrieval after crashes
Event data recorders (EDR) have been around for years in vehicles. They track the number of vehicle actions like speed, acceleration, braking, steering, and airbag deployment. Data gathered used to vary by manufacturer. By 2012 the NHTSA mandated a standardized EDR system for all cars sold in the US.
The NHTSA conducted a study of vehicles that EDR was installed into. It determined: “The results of the engineering analysis show that EDR data can objectively report real-world crash data and therefore be a powerful investigative and research tool, by providing very useful information to crash reconstruction experts and vehicle safety researchers. Due to significant limitations however, EDR data should always be used in conjunction with other data sources.”
According to Consumer Reports here’s what every EDR is now required to record:
- The forward and lateral crash force.
- The crash event duration.
- Indicated vehicle speed.
- Accelerator position.
- Engine rpm.
- Brake application and antilock brake activation.
- Steering wheel angle.
- Stability control engagement.
- Vehicle roll angle, in case of a rollover.
- Number of times the vehicle has been started.
- Driver and front-passenger safety belt engagement, and pre-tensioner or force limiter engagement.
- Airbag deployment, speed, and faults for all airbags.
- Front seat positions.
- Occupant size.
- Number of crashes (one or more impacts during the final crash event).
Privacy concerns are always an issue with the Big Brother-like EDR systems. The NHTSA defined the vehicle owner as the rightful property owner of the data. In the case of Woods’ vehicle it was a promotional vehicle made available from Genesis. So Hyundai is the owner of the data. That posed a problem for Woods who covets his privacy.
Public interest demanded the crash data be released
But there was a lot of public interest in the cause or causes for Woods’ accident. That begged for the data to be made public beyond helping authorities determine a cause. Ultimately it was the right call to make.
After being removed from the SUV Woods underwent a number of surgeries from what doctors called “significant orthopedic injuries.” The police will not be issuing any citations for Woods. He is currently home in Florida recovering.