If you go back even ten years, the idea of fitting a camera in your vehicle to produce a permanent record of what’s happening in its line of sight would only have been for the rich. The standard cameras retailed at hundreds of dollars, had limited recording time, and were quite fragile—an inconvenience if there was an accident and the driver then discovered the vital evidence had been lost. Only some law enforcement departments invested taxpayer dollars. Their recordings became vital evidence, particularly in roadside sobriety tests. Today, the average camera costs less than $100, is highly compact, and strongly resists damage. Better still, some of the better models offer continuous recording. Once the limit of the storage had been reached, it begins recording over the earliest part of the recording. That way, you have always got a record of the more recent events.
Why should you care? Well the police, the prosecutors, your car insurance company, and your attorney will all appreciate access to an accurate record of what happened. What features should you look for in the perfect dashcam?
Some have motion detectors and will switch off automatically when you park. This saves battery power although it may mean the person who breaks in to steal your laptop will not be caught on video. Obviously, you want a high-resolution lens, with time and date stamps. It’s also useful to have a GPS stamp showing exactly where you were when the recording was made. Now we come to the more expensive option. Night vision technology is becoming more affordable as some of the manufacturers fit the cameras as standard on their more expensive models. SInce the risk of accidents is often higher just before dawn or at night (particularly in the cities when the drunk drivers come out to play), the capacity to record events in living green is desirable. Sometimes, it can also be useful to get the police dashcam records:
It’s appropriate to comment on an increasing tendency of some drivers to post their records to YouTube. They are acting a a type of vigilante, picking out all the “best” examples of bad driving and showing these drivers to the world. They argue the law enforcement patrols cannot be everywhere, all the time. So the more people who have dashcams the better. If all the drivers in the vicinity have date and time signatures matching a particular accident, the police and insurance companies have fewer problems in allocating blame and deciding who should bear the civil liability. Once this message gets through to more bad drivers, they will begin to fear successful prosecution even though they flee the scene of the accident. Nothing deters more than the certainty your wrongdoing will be detected and you will have a pay a penalty. So here are a few legal pointers:
• there’s no expectation of privacy if people are in a public place which includes driving, i.e. there’s no legal problem about you posting recorded images on YouTube;
• eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable and having a dashcam solves most evidential problems before a court;
• the recording can protect you from false accusations by other drivers and police officers;
• it’s usually a benefit to the slow and careful drivers.