Scientists have known for years that people change their behaviour when they know they’re being watched. In the past, shop owners found that dummy security cameras were often enough to protect their businesses from shoplifters. Nowadays, video technology is so affordable that we now expect most public spaces to be monitored. We expect these security cameras to deter crime around us, so they make us feel safe.
The problem is, how do people behave when they don’t think they’re being watched? Drive past any well-signposted speed camera, and you’ll see all the cars around you slow down to just below the speed limit – and speed up again once they’ve passed it. Most people feel so comfortable in their own cars that they forget they’re in a public space. Away from the security cameras of the shopping mall and that well-known speed camera, their driving behaviour could put you and others at risk, but how could you prove it?
Cyclists, who usually come off the worst in motor vehicle accidents, were early adopters of video technology to record the actions of other drivers. Shaming these drivers on social media or the evening news, these videos not only draw attention to the problem of dangerous driving but can be crucial evidence in proving who was at fault in an accident. Video recordings have been praised by Australian police, as it provides unbiased evidence as to who was at fault. When properly collected, video footage is powerful evidence in compensation cases and has been used successfully in Australian courts.
So, it’s no surprise that dashboard cameras are becoming more and more popular in Australian cars. Not only can they help you in proving your innocence after an accident but, as the price of dash cams come down, they may even save you money in the long run. For example, some insurers in the UK now offer discounts on premiums to owners who have dash cams installed, which is something that could soon be introduced to Australia.
Some owners have motion activated cameras installed specifically to record damage to their car when they aren’t around to catch the person at fault. And some parents take advantage of speed recording features on their dashcam to dissuade younger drivers in the family from driving too fast.
On top of all these added benefits, a dashboard camera is an attractive accessory for good drivers who don’t want to be held responsible for the mistakes of others.
Benefits of having a dashboard camera
- The main benefit of dash cams is that they provide actual footage of your – or someone else’s – accident. Even in good faith, witnesses can be wrong. Dash cams can protect the innocent by showing what really happened, as the camera doesn’t lie and it doesn’t forget.
- If the video was recorded in a public place, it can be used in court as evidence. However, footage taken on private property cannot be used.
- It’s hard to make a claim if you can’t identify the driver. A dash cam can help catch a hit and run driver, and can give the true version of events if one driver is seriously injured or killed in an accident.
- Video evidence can help establish the cause of the accident, and perhaps prevent it happening again. Debris on the road, an animal running out, or faulty brakes can all contribute to an accident. Having video evidence of this can help prove that an accident wasn’t your fault.
- Every accident is stressful, even when it isn’t your fault. If you can establish the driver at fault with no way for the other driver to refute what happened, your claims process will be easier and therefore less stressful.
- Dash cams can help protect you from false claims. Every petty thief in the 90’s knew how to break through a crook-lock, but having one on your steering wheel still served as a deterrent. If a fraudster sees a camera on your windshield they’re likely to think twice before picking you as a target in a “crash for cash” scam.
What you need to know about dash cams
- You can only use footage that was recorded in a public place.
- Make sure the unit doesn’t obscure your vision or distract you while you are driving.
- The speed reading on a discount store dash cam is unlikely to override the reading from a police speed camera. The only sure way to avoid speeding tickets is to avoid speeding. Nonetheless, record your data for a few weeks if you think you may have passed a roadside radar, as your video evidence may be able to show that another vehicle was the one speeding.
- A dash cam is not a safety device. Don’t skimp on your own vehicle’s safety features because you have a dash cam, or expect other drivers to behave differently because you’ve turned it on.