In recent years, dashboard cameras — an onboard camera that continuously records the view through a vehicle’s windscreen — has seen an exponential rise in popularity. Adoption of the technology is growing fast in the UK, US, and Singapore, among others.
For other countries such as Russia, dashboard cameras have been ubiquitous for quite some time. According to a report by Al Jazeera, by 2012 an estimated one million Russian motorists had dashboard video cameras installed in their cars, but they are there mainly to expose and stamp out police corruption and bribery.
Before, dash cams were typically associated with officers of the law and YouTube road rage compilations, but now private use aids vehicle owners in case of an accident. At an average price of US$50, they are very affordable and can even cut the cost of insurance premiums. Dash cam recordings are usually saved on an internal memory card, and depending on its capacity one can expect to play back a few hours of footage.
Dash cams speed up insurance claims and lower insurance costs
When one is involved in an accident or high-stress event, it can be difficult to remember the exact details as to how the event unfolded. Dash cam footage can provide an objective account of accidents, leading to fewer disputes and faster insurance claims processes.
Over the last year, dash cam sales in the UK had increased by 104%. A research conducted by Halfords also found that over the past two years dash camera usage had risen by a whopping 671%. In the UK this year, insurance claims are three times more likely to include dash cam footage as supporting evidence compared to two years ago.
Scott Hamilton-Cooper, director of operations and sales at Accident Exchange, a Birmingham-based company that supplies temporary replacement vehicles post-accident, also considers the use of dash cams beneficial for drivers. “For many, the post-accident experience is one of the most stressful elements of car ownership, and it benefits everyone – motorists, accident management firms and insurers – to make it simple, stress-free and to limit unnecessary claims disputes. The fact it brings even more transparency to the process is great for us and our customers.”
Dash cams improve road safety and help save lives
Timothy Kulp, a South Carolina-based attorney who specializes in DUI (Driving Under the Influence), DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) and criminal defense cases, notes that dash cams’ popularity arose from application in DUI/DWI settings as they produce reliable evidence. Some dash cam users have also claimed that having the device made them more responsible and mindful when they are driving.
Two-way (front and rear) dash cams also make a great teaching tool. It can help instructors or parents monitor new drivers and provide feedback. Because the drivers’ every move is being recorded, it might deter them from risky behaviors such as texting while driving and prevent young drivers from forming reckless habits before they get into a serious accident. In hit-and-run cases, dash cams can help the police identify the perpetrator, saving them a lot of time and helping them keep the roads safe.
Dash cam manufacturer Thinkware is now developing the technology even further to help save lives in fatal accidents. The company plans on installing sensors that can detect accidents. By enabling wireless upload of the crash footage when an accident has been detected and making the video available to the authorities, emergency services can assess the situation more accurately and respond to the accident more quickly. This innovation is also useful in cases where vehicles veer off-road and no one is aware that there has been an accident.
Better car performance
There is talk of car manufacturers adding dash cams as standard operating equipment. General Motors is an early adopter of the technology; its 2015 Corvette Stingray comes with a built-in dash cam and Performance Data Recorder.
Advancements in technology will bring companies and consumers more feature-packed dash cams that record more than just video, all at an affordable price. The more complex dash cams available on the market now can already record video, speed, exact location, and G-forces, all of which can help auto manufacturers better understand the circumstances of a crash or accident. The data can be used to design and engineer better, safer vehicles.
Privacy is one main reason why some car owners choose not to install dash cams. Seeing how commonplace dash cams have become, there is a possibility that one might be coerced into handing over footage to insurance companies and law enforcement agencies. For example, although insurance companies Markerstudy and AXA do maintain that policy-holders are not obliged to hand over dash cam footage in the event of a crash, there is a possibility their policy excess will be raised if they do not do so.
Additionally, with dash cams that enable wireless video upload into cloud servers, there is a risk that hackers and criminals might gain access to the footage.
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