Given the current state of technology and electronics-derived knowledge, I find myself being continuously asked this question – “Are airbag control modules always accurate?” The simple answer is if all the equipment on the vehicle is to manufacturer specifications and the tires are not slipping, then “yes.” If the tires are slipping, or the mechanics of the vehicle are not to specifications, however, then there may be issues with the reliability of the data recorded by the airbag control module (“ACM”).
In my years of experience, I have learned that there are numerous factors that can affect the reliability of the data contained in an ACM. For instance, something as simple as low tire air pressure can cause an increase in the speed reported. Another occurrence that can affect ACM accuracy is if a vehicle is spinning while trying to pull out. Under these circumstances, the speed recorded by an ACM will be considerably higher. Additionally, if a vehicle locks its brakes in an attempt to stop while traveling at 55 miles per hour, the ACM will record a speed of 0 mph after the brakes are locked. This is simply because the wheels are not rotating although the vehicle would still be moving as it begins to skid.
It is precisely for these reasons that traffic collision reconstruction experts are trained to FIRST always reconstruct the traffic collision, and to THEN to compare the reconstruction and scene evidence with the data contained in an event data recorder, such as an ACM. If this process is not properly completed, the reliability of the data in the ACM cannot be validated.
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~ Joey Stidham, Owner of SRI