Automotive Journalist and Swansway Group featured author, John Swift discusses the pros and cons of dash cams in his latest article
With approximately 12,000 bumps, collisions and crashes reported every day it is perhaps no surprise that drivers are trying to protect their good name, their no-claims bonus and prove their innocence with video evidence from a dash cam.
We have probably all seen social media sites showing horrifyingly stupid driving or riding recorded by another road user and the images act as an independent witness to those events. That evidence can be fundamental in helping you proving your innocence in an insurance claim or police prosecution.
About three per cent of drivers now have them in their vehicles but the number is rocketing with sales up by some 800 per cent in just the last few years. There is much to be said for them because they speed up claims and reduce insurance costs and here we look at some of their pros and cons, which type to buy and how they work.
Imagine some of the following scenarios and you can see why a camera could work in your favour. A car ahead slamming on its brakes leaving you no time to stop, a cyclist shooting out from a side road or across a red light into your path, a car coming the other way running wide and into your lane. All are everyday events and we could list hundreds more but footage from a camera could prove beyond any doubt who was at fault and who should be held liable in any consequent insurance claim.
Insurers like dash cams because it helps them fight the continuing `crash-for cash’ scandal costing around £390 million a year and pushing up our premiums. These are cases where a driver deliberately tempts another into a bump such as by flashing their lights as if to let them out of a junction but then doesn’t, or by unexpectedly jumping on the brakes causing a collision and faking an injury to claim compensation.
Drivers should benefit with cheaper insurance. Depending on which one you go to, insurers tend to like drivers who are willing to have their driving recorded on the basis that they will be a little more careful and most should offer a discounted rate on your premium. Around 15 per cent should be easily achievable if you shop around. The condition is, of course, that you must hand over your footage if you are defending or making a claim.
Bear in mind that footage can work two ways. They can indeed prove that you were blameless in the collision but can also reveal that perhaps you weren’t so innocent of blame as you thought after all!
The camera will look forward but what about behind? If you do see them as a way of protecting of your good driving record, then you should buy one with a dual lens, giving you coverage forwards and backwards. They tend to be pricier but worth it.
Some cameras just aren’t up to the job, either producing images so poor they are unusable or can’t film properly at night time or in strong glare. There are plenty of good review websites on the net to help you make an informed choice before buying.
Finally, and as things stand, while most insurers use it not all police forces accept dash cam footage when deciding on a prosecution but there is growing pressure on them to make it policy across the country to use it. That said, footage is admissible in court as evidence.
Which ones to buy:
Prices range from around £50 to £250 and upwards and you can get them from any good accessory store or online. You can choose one which is plugged into the cigarette lighter socket or have it hard wired into the car and a store like Halfords can do this for you.
As well as basic footage, the better but pricier cams fitted with GPS will record your speed and location and, as a bonus, alert you to any fixed speed cameras! This extra data can be vital if sorting an insurance claim.
As with most things, the more you pay the better you get and you have to ask if some of the ones with less performance are worth bothering with.
To be truly effective you need one that will do at least the following. Take quality recording in all light conditions, have a GPS that can record your speed, have a wide angle lens that sees almost as much as a driver can and perhaps most important of all, choose one with a dual lens so it records both forwards and backwards.
You might also want to get one with a g-meter built in. This will detect any sudden and heavy impact or braking which can again add key data in a claim or court case and it will `lock’ the relevant segment of the film so you can download and save it later.
How they work:
Dash cams do not record endlessly but save the recordings in segments otherwise after a week of driving you would end up with several hours of footage. You will only need a fraction of that, either to hand in as evidence or to post online. You can manually select when to save a segment and the better cameras with the g-meters will automatically do this when they detect an emergency brake or impact.
One final thing to bear in mind. Cameras can be a distraction and if anything obscures your view of the road, or is mounted where it will affect your concentration, you are committing an offence.
But on the whole we think they are a good thing to have and if you can save 15 per cent or so on your insurance premium it is well worth the investment.