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Change coming in US troop rollover deaths?

A Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or M-ATV, sits on its side during the Vehicle Recovery Course aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 25, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alisa Helin)
January 30, 2023

The U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps are set to begin a pilot program to install black box-style data recorders on military vehicles as a way to improve vehicle safety after numerous deadly military vehicle rollover accidents in recent years.

The black box program’s language comes from the 1st Lt. Hugh Conor McDowell Safety in Armed Forces Equipment Act. The language of that act was rolled into the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed in December.

The 1st Lt. Hugh Conor McDowell Safety in Armed Forces Equipment Act is named after a Marine officer who was killed in rollover accident while training in the Las Pulgas area of Camp Pendleton on May 9, 2019.

While all military ships, aircraft and ground vehicles have some form of black box data collection system, the data collection from U.S. military ground vehicles is not always consistent. Retired Marine Col. Walt Yates told Military Times that black box systems on military ground vehicles don’t record data on tipping, loss of traction or acceleration force.

The new provision in the 2023 NDAA calls for a five-year pilot program that would more consistently apply and review black box data collection on military ground vehicles. This data collection would also enable the military to indentify of near-miss moments and automated potential hazards that would otherwise go undetected by their drivers. The black box data could also be used to better evaluate create a standardized record source for accident investigations and to assess individual driver proficiency, risk, and readiness.

Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD), one of congressmen who sponsored the legislation in 2021, said, “We have a responsibility to ensure the young men and women who wear the uniform are properly trained and supervised to avoid preventable accidents.”

In 2021, co-sponsor Rep. Rob Wittman said, “By equipping tactical vehicles with black boxes capable of recording key datapoints, we give Army and Marine Corps commanders the data they need to better inform their decision-making processes and training in order to prevent future tactical vehicle accidents.”