Benefits of Onboard Video Systems
June 15, 2015
Commercial vehicles, such as buses and tractor-trailers, often are equipped with onboard video systems that can be used to analyze circumstances leading up to a crash. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reviewed the benefits of these systems. A report of their findings and recommendations has been issued in hopes of preventing future crashes, as well as reducing the number of injuries and fatalities caused by bus accidents and trucking accidents.
Recorded video captured from onboard systems can be an invaluable tool investigators use to determine the probable cause of a crash. Videos can show weather and road conditions, as well as the position of other vehicles that may have been involved. Additionally, videos can provide critical evidence to prove that the dangerous behavior on the part of the driver or passengers was a contributing factor in an accident. Moreover, videos have shown distracted drivers texting while driving or even falling asleep at the wheel just before a major crash.
NTSB Truck Accident Analysis
As part of their analysis, the agency studied two recent crashes involving commercial vehicles with continuous recording onboard video systems. In one, a tractor-trailer collided with a school bus in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The video recording system was able to provide useful information about the driver and passenger behaviors and vehicle motion prior to the crash; vehicle and occupant motions during the crash; and events that followed the crash, including passenger evacuation, short-term injury outcomes, and emergency response.
The second investigation involved a tractor-trailer that collided with a motorcoach equipped with four continuous recording cameras. The onboard video system was able to provide key pre-crash information on the relative positions of the involved vehicles, as well as some information about the sequence of events. However, because the cameras were poorly placed and lacked the ability to capture a clear picture in low-light, the recording did not provide any useful information in regards to pre-crash occupant position or use of safety restraints for the majority of passengers.
Continuous Onboard Video Systems vs. Event-Based Systems
The report also analyzed both the advantages and the limitations of commercial vehicle onboard video systems that record video either continuously, or as a result of a triggering event. Systems that record continuously start recording when the vehicle ignition is turned on and typically record for a programmed period of one to sixty minutes after the ignition is turned off. One benefit of these systems is the ability to review a driver’s past behaviors. One case presented in the report involved a school bus that was struck by a train while attempting to cross the tracks. Following the crash, a review of previously recorded data was used to determine that the driver had a history of failing to stop at train crossings.
Other types of onboard video systems capture and save video when triggered by an event, such as a crash or hard braking. Event-based systems were once strongly recommended by the NTSB. However, due to increased quality of continuous video systems, the market prevalence of these systems has risen significantly in recent years.
Based on their findings, the NTSB issued recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seven transportation-related associations, and 15 manufacturers of onboard video systems. Issues addressed included the benefits of systems that capture events both inside and outside the vehicle, as well as proper installation and maintenance. The report also stressed the importance of an optimized frame rate and the camera’s ability to record clear images even in low light.
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