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Dashcam consideratiions

Driver use of dashcams (dashboard cameras) is rising worldwide, including popularity gains in the United States.  They were first widely employed in Russia as a defense against police corruption and insurance fraud.  Mounted via suction cup, adhesive or Velcro to the dashboard or windshield, they record vital, independent-witness data that can be used in accident arbitration.

Such footage can assist drivers in absolution, or easier resolution, of fault.  Dashcam use is also helpful to police agencies for evidence gathering during traffic stops, car chases and driver arrests.  Again, in those cases, dashcam data can help either absolve or condemn police officers or perpetrators.

Many police departments nationwide are currently using or considering use of dashcams; in our litigious society, it will likely become the norm for protection of officers.  So, what are the considerations of mounting a dashcam in your private vehicle?

Whatever dashcam is chosen, it is important to avoid violation of certain laws while using it, such as Washington RCW 46.37.480, forbidding the use of a viewing screen “when the moving images are visible to the driver while operating the motor vehicle on a public road.” Additionally, any mounting position that may be deemed as “obstructive to the driver’s field of vision” is disallowed in every jurisdiction.

Some countries, like Austria and Switzerland, have banned the devices, making them illegal based on potential privacy violations when videos are posted to social media sites.  Conversely, their legality in the United States is based essentially on protection of rights of videotaping of public events under the First Amendment. 

Certain states, like Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts, legally restrict the recording of anyone’s voice without their consent.  There, video is evidently allowed as long as it contains no audio.  Illinois has also amended their restrictive law to forbid video recording of law enforcement officers, even when they are conducting public duties.

Dashcam popularity has, of course, spawned a proliferation of consumer-available devices.  Desired features of your chosen purchase should include good resolution and quality optics.  Clear license plate numbers and other descriptive vehicle and driver details are crucial for assisting accident resolution.  Field of view, or degree of wide-angle, is important, along with quality of microphone.  GPS, time and date stamping are desired features, and the ability to withstand heat and cold should be determined in the selection process.

 

Some models even include a feature that will send an emergency message to 911 triggered by suddenly detected G-forces followed by driver inactivity.

While the ability to help resolve traffic accidents may be driving their upswing in popularity, there are other reasons users are mounting dashcams to their vehicles. Even fender benders in parking lots can be arbitrated easier with video footage.  And while insurance fraud may not be rampant in the U.S., it does exist.  There are certain people, for example, who are willing to get a broken leg from being struck as a pedestrian in the hope of a big insurance settlement.

It’s also evident from existing Youtube videos that these small cameras affixed to cars and motorcycles are used to capture unexpected events, show off driving skills, and document road trips.  Due to their widespread use there, the Chelyabinsk Meteor’s earth entry was famously recorded by the dashcam in a car parked in Russia.

Whether you want to own one or not, dashcams are securing a prominent position in our camera and device-laden environment.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.

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