These days, a dash camera is like an insurance policy in that everyone should have one. Dash cams have never been cheaper and the technology they offer just gets better and better. Below we discuss three reasons everyone should have a dash cam.
To Protect Yourself From Police
I cannot count the number of times where a dash cam video would have changed the outcome of a client’s case. A dash cam is helpful in nearly every type of traffic case.
Red light tickets: When a police officer issues a ticket for a red light violation, it is the officer’s word against the drivers. That’s not a great place to be for the driver because the court will likely believe the police officer over the driver. However, if the driver has dash cam video, then what happened is clear.
Speeding Tickets: Sometimes it appears police don’t tell the truth. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. If we’re being generous, we can say some police officers are grossly mistaken about what they observed. Examples might include:
A police officer issues a ticket to a driver for excessive speed. The driver has a GPS-enabled dash cam and is able to show that he never exceeded the speed limit by more than 20 mph, and therefore did not commit the alleged violation.
A police officer issues a ticket to a driver for speeding. The driver is able to produce dash cam video. Using the time stamps on the video together with the distance between identifiable landmarks, the driver is able to show that they did not exceed the speed limit.
These examples are relatively minor in comparison to a situation that involves police violence or even a police shooting. Many police these days wear on-body cameras, but many still do not. Even when a police officer has an on-body camera, he must still manually activate the camera. Police sometimes fail to activate their cameras, or they have a technical issue.
To Protect Yourself In An Accident
In a traffic accident, the police almost always are not present for the actual accident. They show up after the fact. The police then interview the drivers involved in the accident. Research shows that eye witnesses are horribly unreliable. Then the police issue a ticket based on those interviews and what they observe of the accident aftermath.
A frequent point of contention in accident cases is what color was the traffic light. Without dash camera video, it is impossible to know. If a driver has video leading up to the accident, then it is indisputable what happened.
Having video of the accident becomes all the more important when it comes time for an insurance company to determine who is at fault. This is particularly true if the accident involves serious personal injuries. A video will go a long way towards showing what really happened and who was actually at fault.
A dash camera can also be useful if you are in an accident and the other driver flees. We see this happen frequently. Not only does the video show what happened during the accident, but there is a good chance it will capture a license plate making it easier to identify the fleeing driver.
You May Record Interesting Things.
I think we have all been driving along and observed something crazy. If you have a dash camera, then you can share whatever ridiculous thing you observed with your friends.
I was recently leaving a cars and coffee event and found myself behind a Pontiac GTO. As we turned to get on the highway, the GTO floored it and started fishtailing. He’s fortunate there were no police around, as he would have gotten a reckless driving or exhibition of speed ticket for sure. Now I have a video showing why police hang out around car events.
What To Look For In A Dash Camera
Like all technologies, dash cameras are developing quickly. They are getting more convenient. For example, my camera is a couple years old. It has an SD card I have to remove if I want to download a video. Some newer cameras have wireless connectivity with a smartphone, eliminating this hassle. Besides looking for a camera that is convenient to use, there are three other important features we recommend:
- It should be GPS-enabled. In other words, it should be able to track your position and speed, and embed that data within the video. Without this information, it will be very difficult to reconstruct your speed.
- It should have forward AND rear facing cameras. Not all accidents happen to the fronts of cars. Your camera should record what is going on out back too.
- It should be wired into your car’s power source. This is less important than the first two, but my preference is to have a camera that powers on with my car, and that I don’t have to worry about changing batteries. I never think about my camera unless I see something I happen that I want to download. It just runs in the background all by itself.
Even if you only have a basic dash camera without all of the above features, that will still be far better than no camera, and will be immensely useful if you were to get into an accident.
I picked up my current camera (no longer available) on amazon for less than $200. It has front and rear cameras, GPS, and is hard-wired into the 12V power supply of my car. There are many cameras to chose from at a variety of price points. Some of the forward-only cameras can start at less than $100. Some of the off-brand cameras can be hit or miss. As in, they may work great, or the may not work at all.
If you are looking for something from a more established brand, take a look at Garmin. Garmin is an established brand that is not going to disappear next year leaving you unsupported. Garmin offers online video storage services, the videos will download from your camera via wifi automatically, and you can pair up to 4 cameras together so you can cover every angle from inside your car. We have no relationship with Garmin; it just looks like a nice product and we’re looking forward to trying out their Dash Cam 57. Here is a link to a post about installing the Garmin Dash Cam 57.