Black box puts ‘speeding car’ claim out to pasture

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Black box puts ‘speeding car’ claim out to pasture

No defects have been found in two vehicles whose drivers claimed they experienced sudden bursts of acceleration while trying to brake the respective vehicles, the transport ministry said yesterday.

The drivers of a Kia Sportage R and a Hyundai Grandeur claimed to have lost control of the vehicles as they applied the brakes, with both cars speeding up and causing collisions. The Sportage R smashed into a building near a parking lot in Yongin, Gyeonggi, in March, while the Grandeur killed three pedestrians and injured several others in April in Daegu,

The ministry said it failed to find any proof during its investigation started in May showing that neither of the drivers had applied the brake pedals just prior to the accidents.

This is the first time the government has launched a probe into accidents regarding claims of sudden and unintended acceleration.

“We cannot determine at this stage whether such accidents are even possible,” said Jo Moo-young, director of the transport ministry’s auto division. “But based on these two cases, the accidents seemed to have occurred not due to the cars’ malfunctioning, but rather through driver error.”

In order to analyze what exactly transpired, the ministry pored over an event data recorder, or “black box,” installed in the Sportage R and said that the brake pad had not been pushed for five seconds prior to the collision, when the vehicle halted - contrary to the driver’s argument.

An event data recorder monitors a car’s speed for the final three to five seconds before a collision. It also records whether a brake or accelerator has been operated, and if the driver wore a seat belt.

As the Grandeur lacked a black box, investigators relied partly on CCTV footage that showed no sign of the brake lights illuminating prior to impact.

By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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