Cheat Sheet Q & A

Today’s Topic / Question:  The Event Data Recorder in your car

You guys were talking about a guy who got pulled over and given a ticket for no seatbelt when he claimed to have it on until he went to reach for his papers in the glove box. CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG, but here’s how he can fight it:


Modern vehicles nowadays utilize the car’s computer as a type of “black box recorder”. This is most beneficial for insurance companies so they can pull a report and see what speed you were traveling, weather or not you attempted to use the brakes, wipers/lights on, etc. just before an accident. My suggestion would be to have him take the car to the dealer and pull the report for the time frame which he was pulled over to prove it was on, or at the very least, the belt buckle was latched together.


Bottom Line:  You’re certainly thinking…  I like your thought process.  Let’s take a look at the Event Data Recorder aka “black box recorder”. 

While there has been a great deal of debate about the recent mandate by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to force all autos to have EDR’s in future years, the truth is you car most likely already has one.  Even if you weren’t aware.  By 2005, 64% of all autos sold in the US had an EDR.  By 2013 it was up to 96%.  So was does the “Black Box” record?:

·                       The forward and lateral crash force

·                       The crash event duration

·                       Indicated vehicle speed

·                       Accelerator position

·                       Engine rpm

·                       Brake application and antilock brake activation

·                       Steering wheel angle

·                       Stability control engagement

·                       Vehicle roll angle, in case of a rollover

·                       Number of times the vehicle has been started

·                       Driver and front-passenger safety belt engagement

·                       Air bag deployment, speed, and faults for all air bags

·                       Front seat positions

·                       Occupant size

·                       Number of times a vehicle was impacted

So it’s a lot.  Including, for the purpose of this entry, seatbelt information.  So…  How about it?  Could we easily have our dealer check the information and use it to fight a citation? 

In my research I couldn’t find any cases of a traffic citation being successfully fought using the data.  This is likely the reason why…

In order for the data to be used as evidence in court:

  • The judge must first choose to accept the data as evidence (so you’d have to petition successfully the traffic court)
  • The EDR has to past a four point diagnostic test to prove it’s working properly and it’s data is accurate
  • You’d have to compare the data on the recorder with the police recorders and demonstrate the precise timing beyond reasonable doubt in court

In others words…  It’s theoretically possible to use this technique to fight a basic traffic citation but by the time you’ve completed all of those steps you’d likely spend far more time and money defending yourself then if you just paid the ticket. 

If you have a topic or question you’d like me to address email me:

Audio Report:


Bitcoin debacle at Mt Gox: 

Bottom Line:  It appears as though the worst case scenario is playing out at what had been the largest bitcoin exchange Mt Gox.  Overnight the exchange shutdown, is inaccessible as of the time of this posting and it appears as though it could imminently file for bankruptcy amid speculation of corruption.  What this means for those who had bitcoins with the exchange is unknown but it doesn’t look good.  It could be a total loss.  Meanwhile the price of bitcoin on the remaining exchanges is down significantly to about $450 per bitcoin (down from a recent high of $1200 per bitcoin).  Can bitcoin survive the loss of its biggest exchange?  This is a reminder of what I’ve warned about regarding the risk association with a quasi currency that’s not backed by anything (other than computer servers).  The next week could determine whether bitcoin has true staying power or if it’ll join the cyber dust bit of the failed crypto currency. 


If you think meat is expensive now...:

Bottom Line:  We know that life becomes more expensive with time and inflation.  We can easily look back twenty years and reminisce about gas at $1 per gallon and movies that were $5 per ticket.  Usually the price increases for everyday items grow slowly enough that it’s not a noticeable increase from grocery store trip to grocery store trip.  With several items, and perhaps most noticeably beef products, that’s been changing.  Perhaps it’s just me but when you look at the cost of steaks over what they were a year or two ago, it’s a significant and highly noticeable difference.  In fact…

  • The cost of beef rose an average of 5% last year

But that’s noting compared to what we’re expected to see in 2014.  Due in part to supply shortages and in part due to QE and watering down of the US dollar…

  • Beef prices are expected to rise by 15% this year

So tack on another 15% and that’s the expected price for beef in December.  This is one of many examples of why I don’t buy the Government’s argument that inflation is low and below average.  While it’s true that “core” inflation (the number that the Government uses and points to as being low these days) is low, at under 2%...  The core number excludes food and energy.  So if you don’t eat or use energy it matters.  Given that you’re human and require food and energy it’s a terrible measure of how far your dollar will go in everyday life.  When you have staples of American life like fuel (prices up 17% in the last month) and beef that are rising at levels far beyond income growth and the overall economy, inflation is real and it is harming the quality of life for the average American. 

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Years later we're still unhappy with our banks:

Bottom Line:  In 2011 about 10% of all Americans using banks, changed the bank they used.  As banks changed their policies and accounts in response to financial regulation reform, fees for previously fee free accounts and lost rewards became the norm.  In fact only 39% of banks now offer a free checking account.  That used to be a staple of virtually all banks.  The result is that we’re still far from satisfied.  In a survey by Harris Interactive…:

  • 25% of Americans are unhappy with their current bank and are considering moving to a different bank

Not surprisingly fees are the biggest issue the unhappy folks have with their current banks.  It’s understandable.  I don’t believe in paying for fees for basic accounts that you need for your everyday use.  Here’s the good news.  While most banks do charge fees for basic accounts, there still are those who don’t.  Do your homework, find them and rejoin the ranks of fee free banking which will likely leave you much happier. 

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This more than anything else demonstrates why you can't blindly trust the financial experts:

Bottom Line:
  If you were wrong at work 75% of the time last year…  Congrats!  You were still better at your work outcomes than financial analysts.  The average financial analyst was indeed off by 76% for 2013…  That’s not even an acceptable batting avg.! 

Perhaps not surprisingly they were an average of 76% more optimistic than reality turned out to be for the companies they covered.  Now you know why I handle all of my own research and am commonly critical of the forecasting by these “pros”.  If the rest of us were wrong at work 76% of the time we’d be fired. 

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Getting started investing like Warren Buffet:

Bottom Line:  Warren Buffet is nearing the end of his reign as the top investor of our time.  He seems satisfied to increasingly share his investing ideas and philosophy to those who are interested in listening.  He recently cited three fundamentals of investing with Fortune Magazine.  They are:

  • When choosing an investment his primary concern is if he believes that the company will be increasingly profitable in the future.  Not what the price is today or what he or others speculate it might be in the future
  • To get started investing use a low cost S&P 500 fund if you don’t yet know enough to pick individual stocks
  • Don’t start investing during times of extreme volatility.  Either good or bad markets because the added volatility when you’re just getting started could lead you to make emotional decisions that aren’t part of a disciplined investment approach

I don’t know if I was a good student of Buffet at a young age or if I just adopted a similar philosophy but those are very similar to the tenets of investing you’ll hear me espouse.  Hopefully that’s a good sign for the long term.  Happy investing! 

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