Driver Leaves Scene Of Accident, Gets Turned In By Her Car

from the prosecution-would-like-to-submit-this-jumble-of-circuits-and-wires-as-Exhibit-A dept

It’s no secret today’s vehicles collect tons of data. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be a secret. It certainly isn’t well-known, despite even some of the latest comers to the tech scene — legislators — having questioned automakers about their handling of driver data.

More than one insurance company will offer you a discount if you allow them to track your driving habits. Employers have been known to utilize “black boxes” in company vehicles. These days, the tech is rarely even optional, although these “event data recorders” generally only report back to the manufacturers themselves. Consumer-oriented products like OnStar combine vehicle data with GPS location to contact law enforcement/medical personnel if something unexpected happens. Drivers can trigger this voluntarily to seek assistance when stranded on the road because of engine trouble, flat tires, etc.

They can also trigger this involuntarily, as one Florida woman found out.

Police responded to a hit-and-run in the 500 block of Northwest Prima Vista Boulevard on Monday afternoon. The victim, Anna Preston, said she was struck from behind by a black vehicle that took off. Preston was taken to the hospital with back injuries.

Around the same time, police dispatch got an automated call from a vehicle emergency system stating the owner of a Ford vehicle was involved in a crash and to press zero to speak with the occupants of the vehicle.

The owner of the vehicle seemed surprised to be receiving a call from a 911 dispatcher. The driver, Cathy Bernstein, first claimed she hadn’t been in an accident. Unfortunately, the call was triggered by her airbag deploying, which can happen without a corresponding impact, but rarely enough that the dispatcher sent police officers to the driver’s home following the phone call.

At that point, her story changed.

Police went to Bernsteins’s home on Northwest Foxworth Avenue and saw that her vehicle had extensive front-end damage and silver paint from Preston’s vehicle on it. Bernstein’s airbag had also been deployed.

Police said Bernstein again denied hitting another vehicle, saying she had struck a tree.

From that point, the story gets even better.

It was later discovered that Bernstein had been involved in another accident prior to the one with Preston and was fleeing from that incident.

The whole recording is worth a listen, especially as Bernstein buys time after being blindsided by the unexpected incoming call.

Dispatcher: Are you broke down?
Bernstein: No. Unfortunately [looooooong pause] I’m fine.

[…]

Bernstein: The guy who hit me […] I could not control that.
Dispatcher: So, you HAVE been in an accident.
Bernstein: [pause, then very slowly] No.

In this case, the system worked, although not in the way anyone really expected. Someone who thought they had gotten away with two consecutive hit-and-runs found herself talking to police officers after her car tried to help her out by dialing 911. The onboard system is meant to ensure the safety of the driver. In this case, it was apparently everyone else that needed the protection, but the circuitous route still reached the most desirable conclusion.

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Comments on “Driver Leaves Scene Of Accident, Gets Turned In By Her Car”

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55 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

I drive a 2012 Focus with the Microsoft Sync system and the ‘911 Assist’. When pairing my phone, I did not enable ‘911 Assist’. When I power on my car, within 30 seconds it makes a LOUD audio announcement that ‘911 assist is set to off’. Apparently I cannot stop the loud warning without turning 911 assist ON. There is NO WAY in the software to disable the audible warning.

Bonus points I would run my phone (I only paired it for music) thru the external USB but it doesn’t support my particular phone model (Galaxy Note 2).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There is a way to turn it off…and keep the other prompts. It is in the phone menu took me a while to find it even knowing it was there. It was well hidden.. but if you turn it off instead of saying it out loud it turns ALL audio off and displays the 911 assist is off on the radio display…..Annoying as hell and just as annoying. I hate it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Palindrome

They’re not looking for “anagram”, which means that the letters can be rearranged to form a different phrase; they’re looking for a term that specifically means that the letters can be reversed to form a different phrase.
It’s not “palindrome”, which would be “OnStar rats, no!”, but I think “anagram” isn’t sufficient for what they’re looking for either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Palindrome

This is surely errant pedantry, like a musical “round” or “canon” that isn’t a round if only one line of the score is printed out. The original poster provided enough information for anyone to construct the palindrome:

“Onstar? Rats, NO!”

A perfectly sensible remark for anyone who fears having an accident while fleeing the scene of a crime in a car.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Consider the American plumber who sold his truck in Texas, only to find himself at the center of media attention when it reappeared – with his company name and number still on the side – in use by ISIS in Syria.

Imagine an OnStar or Sync system in the vehicle.

US drone operators being able to track it using its own GPS system and radio signals. Killing the engine at the last moment to make it an easier target for incoming missiles. A voice coming from the burning wreckage: “Sir, we’ve detected that your airbag deployed.” Police visiting the original owner’s house to look for damage.

Politicians demanding that data from these systems not be encrypted.

PlagueSD says:

This is normal

With most automated car systems, it’s normal to be called through OnStar/Sync/Uconnect system when the airbags deploy. That’s one of the safety features. If you are injured and/or unconscious, emergency services will already be on their way without you needing to call 911.

This is nothing to lose any sleep over. I accept this in favor of my life possibly being saved by the automated system if I do end up being in bad accident.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This is normal

United States regulations require deployment in crashes at least equivalent in deceleration to a 23 km/h (14 mph) barrier collision, or similarly, striking a parked car of similar size across the full front of each vehicle at about twice the speed

“What You Need to Know About Air Bags, DOT HS 809 575”. Nhtsa.gov. Archived from the original on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-17.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Hell no...

This is exactly what is so cool about our nanny state today, you could be going about your daily business without any problems – only to be accosted by the do-gooding self righteous who think they should be in control of everything.
Isn’t it awesome? I don’t understand why anyone would not welcome this with open arms and wallet. It is worth every penny – amirite?

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re: Hell no...

That any elements of a nanny state are believed to be required at all speaks volumes for the people’s willingness to take personal responsibility for their actions. Basically, they don’t, their selfishiness becomes a burden on the rest of us and measures have to be taken. While I’m not a fan of the nanny state at all I see people like this irresponsible bint as being a major cause or excuse for bringing it in. Is it really too much to ask people to be considerate when driving?

Either be prepared to take the consequences of your actions when driving or stay off the damn road! /snark

Cdaragorn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Laws don't take away choice...

Making something a law, even a good law, does not take away the right to choose or make something not a choice.

Is it wrong to hit and run? Of course, but it’s even more wrong to insist that someone should not have the power to choose what they do in a situation. They cannot choose the consequences of their choices, but they can and should have the right to make those choices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

…Why did the car dial 911 directly, instead of the onstar customer call center? House alarms don’t dial 911. Cars shouldn’t either…

Is that in fact what happened? Hard to tell from the article.

As far as alarms calling emergency services: AFAIK that’s illegal by federal law. Both burglar and fire alarms must transmit their signal(s) to a central station; they cannot call an emergency service directly.

Anonymous Coward says:

For those who are confused (I am the first poster), this is the ‘911 Assist’ on the Microsoft Sync system that one often sees in modern Ford cars. When you pair your phone via bluetooth (to call out or play audio), you have the option of setting this to ‘on’ or not. If you don’t, an annoyingly loud warning plays every time you turn on your car. If you do activate it, when the car registers an accident through the computer system, it will automatically bluetooth your phone to call 911.

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