Self Surveillance - The Rising Use Of The In-Car Dashcam

In Russia, the epicentre of ‘dashcam culture’, police corruption and insurance fraud scams have led to installing over one million dash-mounted cameras in private vehicles. In the 21st century, cameras have become more user-friendly, easily mountable and crucially inexpensive, with mountable dash cameras available from £200 upwards. The days of pedestrians faking being run over or pre-damaged cars smashing into you for fraudulent insurance claims are all but a thing of the past in Mother Russia.

A side effect of such ubiquitous surveillance is the capturing of spectacular events. In 2013 the predominant footage of an exploding meteor came from Russian dashcams. Those outside of Russia consume a voyeuristic slew of dashcam web content whilst simultaneously wondering, “How useful would this be in my country?” The answer, according to the UK public, is ‘very’ A 2015 study conducted by the RAC concluded that:

  • Nearly one in eight men (13%) own one, with just 4% of women buying one.
  • 22% of owners are over the age of 50.
  • More than half the country's drivers are considering buying one.
  • Almost a quarter of people believe driving with a camera onboard would improve their driving, whether they appreciated the surveillance or not.
  • One in five people questioned said they had been involved in an accident involving a dispute over who was at fault. Of those, 69% believed a dashcam would have helped them solve their case.

We have outlined a few scenarios where using a dashcam could avoid much emotional and financial distress.

Scam Artists

Dash Cam

Much of the impetus for dashcams stems from a practice that has occurred worldwide, wherein a motorist becomes the victim of an attempt to extract payment for an engineered collision.

  • Fraudster cuts off the victim, slams on the brakes and claims a rear-end collision.
  • Very difficult to prove without a visual record.
  • Dashcam provides the ultimate eyewitness record.

Red vs Green Debate

Many accidents occur, as the one illustrated below.

Dash Cam

  • The yellow car is distracted or incorrectly times the change of lights from red to green.
  • Without red light cameras, it's very difficult to prove what the lights displayed at the time of the collision.
  • In-car dashboard camera removes all doubt.

Chain-Reaction Collisions

A very common “he-said, she-said” situation occurs when more than two cars are involved in a rear-end collision.

Dash Cam

  • Yellow and grey cars are stationary at the red light.
  • A distracted driver in a blue car collides with the back of the yellow car, pushing it into the grey car.
  • Without a dashcam, the blue car’s insurance company only claims liability for the collision with the yellow car, claiming the yellow car collided with the grey car independently.
  • Yet again, a dashcam would irrefutably counter this claim.

Global Variability in the benefits and the hurdles of dashcams

In most countries, installing a personal dashboard camera in your car is perfectly legal. However, in some countries, such as Switzerland and Austria, the expectation of privacy for private citizens has rendered these cameras illegal.

More than simply being legal, in the UK, USA and Australia, the perception is that drivers with dashcams reduce liability payouts by reducing frivolous and fraudulent claims and creating a safer driving environment. After all, no one knows who has a dashboard camera and who can capture their careless driving in the event of a collision. In the UK, The RAC has responded to public demand by providing a £30 insurance discount to motorists who choose to install a dashcam, a measure that 63% of people think should be a feature of all insurance policies.

Many motorists enjoy sharing elements of their journeys online via outlets such as Facebook, Youtube and Snapchat. The reasonable assumption of privacy of private citizens that could be caught on camera leads some countries, such as Portugal, to allow cameras but issue severe fines for uploading journeys to social media. Personal privacy is the primary reason dashcams are banned in countries like Austria.

Even in countries where dashcams are legal and where footage uploads to social media are permitted, many European countries are where the admissibility in court is still under review.