Dashboard cameras, also known simply as dash cams, are becoming increasingly popular with drivers across the USA. There are two main reasons for this increasing use of dash cams to constantly record footage of a vehicle on the road. The first reason is about minimizing the risk of a “Your word against mine” situation. Camera footage is becoming increasingly accepted for insurance claims and proving liability. Dash Cam footage can absolve you of blame in situations where you would otherwise be at fault. For example, where a case might go to court without footage, the existence of clear footage that apportions blame can create a change of heart that leads to an out-of-court settlement. There has also been an increase in people trying to scam insurance companies through creating fake accidents and then benefiting, when you cannot prove your word is better than theirs. This phenomena is so common in Russia that most drivers now have a dashboard camera. Due to the success of scammers in Russia, the tricks they employ are migrating to other countries (see video to the right). The second reason is that many parents are finding incredible peace of mind by using a dash cam to manage the behavior of their offspring behind the wheel. This is already improving driving attentiveness amongst the young and saving lives. In an increasingly complex world, it pays to understand exactly what a dash cam is and how you can benefit from owning one.
What Is A Dash Cam?
A dash cam is any device that attaches to your vehicle to record video footage of the road around you. Many devices, such as smartphones, can be used as dash cams. There are many apps out there that turn your phone into a dash cam . All you need is a special mounting to allow it to be attached to the interior of your vehicle so that it can view and record the road. However, like other non-specialist devices, the set-up is more complex than simply investing in a dedicated dashboard camera. At the most basic level, a dedicated dash cam, costing around $50-$100 dollars, will simply attach to the windshield and record what happens outside the front of the vehicle. But as with anything technological, the more you pay, the more features you will get. A mid-priced dash cam will usually record in high definition and have two cameras, in much the same way as most smartphones do. The forward facing camera will record what is happening on the road in front of you, while the rear facing camera will record what happens inside the vehicle.
How Do Dash Cameras Work?
The exact details of how a dash cam works will depend specifically on the price you are willing to pay. Generally, they perform the same function. You stick them to your windscreen, like a satnav device, and the dash cam will then record what happens. Nearly all modern dash cam models auto start and stop. Your dash cam will be plugged into the cigarette lighter socket, which does not have power running from it when the engine is turned off. On ignition, the power will activate the dash cam and it will automatically start recording. When the engine is turned off, the camera stops recording. This makes operation of your camera completely hands and mind free. In order to record all the time you are driving, dash cams are designed to record on a “loop”. Once the recording space is full, it will start to record over the data that is oldest. So your device will always preserve the most recent data. The dash cam will record directly onto a standard format SD card. These are very affordable and with a 64GB card being able to hold around 10 hours of HD video, your journey footage is rarely going to be recorded over. The top end cameras also have G-Force sensors to automatically save files in the event of an accident. So if you are involved in a crash and you forget, or can’t, stop your dash cam, you could lose your footage if it keeps recording. A G-Force sensor detects unusually strong jolts on the device and automatically safeguards the footage up until that point by segregating it so it does not record over it. The higher priced dashboard cameras will also include GPS, to allow you to log your location and record the speed you are going. Such is the subtlety of these top-end devices that they can even log the rate at which you accelerate or decelerate. Be aware though that even if you were not at fault for an accident, if your GPS data shows you were exceeding the speed limit at the time, then your dash cam footage could actually work against you, as an attorney, or law enforcement, will use the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it.
some dash cams can also record footage when the vehicles engine is turned off. This can bring the additional benefit of being able to record while you are away from the vehicle. If your vehicle is hit while in a car park, as is the case in the video to the right, the footage can be invaluable in making sure that the perpetrator is caught and made to pay for the damage caused. Permanent recording does require your dash cam to be “hotwired”, so that it takes power from the battery when the engine is turned off. This also means you will need a power limiting device installed, so the camera does not fatally drain the battery. Some people question the value of running a dash cam permanently, as vandalism is usually not picked up with clarity and any contact that is on the side of your vehicle will not be recorded.
Should I Get A Dash Cam?
Although here in the USA we don’t have such an endemic issue with traffic accident scammers as countries such as Russia and South Korea, there are several compelling reasons to buy a dash cam to protect yourself. The first reason to get a dashboard camera is simply because memory is fallible. When you are in an accident, or an incident occurs on the road in front of you, things move so quickly that it’s almost impossible to catch all the detail. There is also the problem that shock and confusion can distort your perception of what actually happened. Having clear footage of what took place can be very valuable for putting your case across later. So in terms of insurance claims, a dash cam can help you and your attorney build a strong case in your favor.There is also the less well discussed issue around legal leverage. If the other party in a road traffic collision denies responsibility, then your dashboard cam footage could be invaluable. If the footage clearly shows the other party to be responsible, allowing their legal team to view the footage has sometimes proved enough for them to recommend an out-of-court settlement. For example, in the video to the right, the border patrol van making an illegal left claimed that the recording vehicle ran a red light to hit them.
Dash Cams Can Save Your Teen’s Life
Beyond the potential legal benefits of using dashboard camera, parents of young drivers can also benefit from this new technology. A growing number of parents are enforcing that their children keep a dash cam in the car while they are driving. Making this a condition of driving either the parents car, their own car, or a car the parents of purchased for them, is proving to be a life saving move. As insurance provider American Family reports, teen drivers they cover who enroll in their year long Safe Driver program and drive with a dash cam are more than 70% less likely to be in an accident. With the dash cam running in the car all the time, especially with the bonus of inward facing camera, the parents can review the footage at any time. Turning the camera off, or deleting footage, breaks the deal and takes the car away from the teenager, so the parents are always in control. On top of the obvious visual benefits, the high-end cameras that record GPS data and speeds data, mean that parents can also make sure that children are not going places they have been told not to go, and that they are not driving recklessly. There is also a formal program parents can use. American Family Insurance’s teen safe driver program actually provides a free dash cam for one year. On top of this, they offer education and professional coaching to help participants teenagers
be better drivers.
If the dashboard camera in a participants car records erratic movements, such as hard braking or swerving, the footage is instantly sent to a control center. The control center is managed by professional driving coaches, who will review the footage and make an assessment on what has happened. They will then passes their assessment onto the parents, so that they can talk to the children. This program has been in operation since 2007, and the latest figures suggest over 12,000 families have participated in it. American Family Insurance state that they never actually see the results, so whatever happens, car insurance rates are not affected unless an accident occurs. The only time they claim to view the dash cam footage is with permission from the policyholder, which has helped to prove fault in several accidents. So increasingly, dash cams are proving to be a useful tool in keeping young drivers safe.