Car calls 911 after alleged hit-and-run, driver arrested

A Ford safety feature has also turned out to be a way to track badly-behaved drivers.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

A driver allegedly involved in two hit-and-run incidents was tracked down after her car alerted the police.

As reported by local news outlets, an unusual 911 call to emergency services took place on Friday in Port St. Lucie, Florida. You would usually expect a human voice on the end of the line, but in this scenario, a Ford vehicle alerted the police to a collision.

57-year-old woman Cathy Bernstein allegedly hit a truck before ploughing into a van on Prima Vista Boulevard, fleeing the scene after each collision. While Bernstein allegedly ran for the hills, her car had already recorded the crash and automatically contacted 911 after recording the time and date of the collision.

The car's safety features, used by by Ford, BMW and other automakers, make use of sensors and Internet connectivity to shave down the time emergency responders take to get to the scene of an accident.

As an example, Ford's SYNC's Emergency Assistance portal pushes the car to send a direct call to emergency services when the airbag is deployed or the fuel pump is deactivated -- such as when a car suffers a sudden jolt against an object.

The system also gives 911 information including the car model, time, and GPS coordinates.

In a later call from emergency services made to Bernstein directly, the driver denied all knowledge of any accident. The driver told the dispatcher that "everything was fine," before the dispatcher said, "Ok but your car called in saying you'd been involved in an accident. It doesn't do that for no reason. Did you leave the scene of an accident?"

"No I would never do that," Bernstein replied.

Usually, this would mean that drivers involved in an accident who are knocked out or cannot reach for their phones can be assisted as quickly as possible. However, in the case of hit-and-run drivers there will be nowhere to hide -- as their car may snitch on them. You are automatically linked to a record of a collision's time, the vehicle involved -- and therefore the accompanying registration details -- and the location.

Hopefully this will make hit-and-run drivers in the future think twice before fleeing the scene of an accident.

Bernstein was tracked down by police, taken to hospital and then cooled her heels in a jail cell. One of Bernstein's reported victims, Anna Preston, was treated at the same hospital as Bernstein. Preston commented:

"I just went by, and I'm assuming she had a worse night than I did."

By 2018, every new vehicle sold within the grasp of the European Union must have this kind of emergency responder technology installed. While originally planned for 2015, despite delays, the EU says eCall emergency responder technology could save up to 2,500 lives a year.

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