Thinking about doing some writing I picked up the Highway section of the Los Angeles Times that was left on the seat next to me on the Red line. I was looking for some issue to would scream at me and say, yes me! Reading the lead of the main story brought me back to my last day working for an L.A. based Ambulance service and having to watch a mother say goodbye to her dead 17 year-old son who was killed while driving his motorcycle by a drunk driver helped in my decision.
The article of choice is about the constitutionality of a piece of legislation and its privacy factors that was being written into law by then departing California Governor Gray Davis. The new law regulates for the first time in history how intelligent media will be recorded and used every time a California driver starts up any new model passenger vehicle and drives to point B. Allegedly AB 213 will protect consumers by unambiguously stating in statute that the collected information stored in the device can only be recalled with a court order or with the registered owner’s consent. Also written into the law is an order for all manufacturers to state in the owner’s manual when a car comes equipped with one of these recording modules.
Having a lifetime interest in aviation, it has been comforting to know that if fate had dealt an unwanted card and something happened in the history of a flight that it will have been recorded as to the specifics and forensic reasons as to the failures of the aircraft in question. I have never known any pilot to feel the least uneasy knowing that their actions and the aircrafts vitals were being recorded. Not wanting one onboard would be tantamount to shutting down power to the ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter), another federal aviation regulation that saves future lives, that is if power could be shut down in the first place which cannot be done. Likewise, I fail to see how the information collected in an automobile equipped with a black box that was involved in an alcohol related incident would support his excuse that the driver did not mean for it to happen when he took the lives of a family. Oh fracking well. Drunks, alcohol and the road is a bad moon rising, but try to tell the dead victims that.
Allow me to break this down into smaller pieces for those of us whose Hippocampus, synapses, and other major components of the human limbic system are tightly wound to their Gluteus maximus. We live and make decisions constantly. Some people drive drunk and kill. We live and make decisions, period. An obviously inebriated person decides to drive home from their local bar, they get in the car, insert their key into the ignition and decide to drive home drunk. That is also more than enough time for someone to catch him or herself and question their most basic rationale. In supporting AB 213 I do ask that people keep an open mind as to the privacy issues that will no doubt arise and accompany this issue like a good tail wind. The core argument of the issue is ownership of the collected intelligence on the media. There are four ways that a driver can loss control of the data in the Black box: When the owner volunteers it, when experts conduct research, when a mechanic repairs the auto and when a court orders it’s release, which would hopefully be by a Federal court since it deals with principles of basic constitutionality. It is the opinion of the writer that the driving publics rights would be best advocated by the shoring up of this law with explicit language that protects the owners constitutional rights at the same time determines proper findings by due process of law. The finer aspects of privacy issues of the opening of any seal should be given the highest sensitivity and yet should be accorded the legal justification due any legal document.
Arriving home I kick off my shoes I start some coffeewannabe (fake coffee) and power on the six pm broadcast of ABC News and I found out that an habitual drunk driver, cruising at almost a hundred miles per hour, erased a family from life last night. I often wondered how someone gets through the endless nights of seeing your victims faces night after night after night, or yet worse, a family member who has lost everything in life that really matters. Black boxes? Hell yes! Keeping the public pressure on to keep inebriated murderers off the road? Hell yeah! Keep an eye on Big Brother and protect the driving public from unjust accusations? Most definitely yes! Lives saved? Priceless.