Do on-board cameras help, or just capture viral footage?

Dashboard cameras have been on the market since around 2000. Designed to protect motorists against fraudulent claims after an accident, or theft and damage, these tiny cameras can film for long periods of time. There is no doubt that dashcams are useful, but what benefits do they bring to the average user to make them worth their cost?

Increasing popularity

Dashboard cameras are becoming more and more common around the world, with them being something of a necessity in some countries, like Russia. This is due to their relaxed, often corrupt law enforcement, so they need definite proof to actually win a court case. Of course, this dash cam footage also highlights some of the dangers of driving in Russia, as well as the risk of insurance scams. These ‘crash-for-cash’ scams involve someone making fraudulent claims after causing a crash by slamming their brakes on in front of another motorist. They take advantage of the fact that the driver behind is typically held responsible for causing this kind of crash, which can potentially cause injuries, trauma and increased premiums for the innocent motorist behind.

However, not all countries have taken to the dashboard camera. Due to data protection laws, Austria has banned them outright; Switzerland strongly discourages using them, and Germany has forbidden drivers who do use the cameras from posting the clips online.

The benefits of a dash cam

The main benefit of equipping your car with a dash cam is the peace of mind it provides. If you do ever get into an accident or crash, the camera records irrefutable evidence of what exactly happened, specifically countering the dodgy ‘crash-for-cash’ attempts. This helps significantly with any claims that have to be made to insurance companies.

Dash cams can also help parents worry a little less when allowing their children to take their cars out. It is not uncommon for parents to stipulate that their teens need to live with a dashboard camera if they want to take the car out. While most teenagers will probably see it as a bit of a drag, it can help protect them.

Some insurance companies are also starting to offer discounts to people willing to fit their cars with a free camera, as it provides them with proof that you’re a safe (or not so safe) driver.  These special cameras are sensitive to erratic driving, like weaving, swerving or hard braking, and will send information about this driving straight back to the insurance company.

The downsides of dashboard filming

While the actual main disadvantage of buying a dash cam is the price, these specialised cameras have been dropping in price due to becoming more popular and readily available. The most basic models are available from around £50, and go up depending on what features you want.

However, there are added drawbacks to the idea of dashboard cameras as a whole. They are often the source of viral driving footage, which can detract from their actual purpose of protecting the driver, and in some cases, cause drivers to act dangerously to film something with their camera. On the other hand, a lot of the dangerous driving footage that does go viral can lead to a prosecution, so this is not a huge downside to the cameras.

Ultimately, while dash cams can protect you if you are involved in a crash or accident, they cannot prevent them from happening. It is still important to make sure you are fully insured, taxed and your car passes its MOT! It is also prudent to have an emergency plan in place for random accidents, such as a contact to repair a chipped or cracked windscreen, or a local tow company.

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