An estimated three million drivers in the UK now have dash cams fitted to their vehicles.
Their boom in popularity has come in the last few years as the recording devices have become cheaper, smaller and easier to use and they are proving increasingly useful to drivers, insurers and police forces.
According to road safety body GEM Motoring Assist they also have the potential to make a “significant contribution” to road safety and to save you money on your car insurance.
Writing in GEM’s Good Motoring magazine, road safety expert Sandra MacDonald-Ames says: “Dash cam devices have been popular in the commercial sectors for fleets of vans and lorries, along with emergency vehicles, for a number of years,” she says. “But until recently their high cost has kept them out of reach for most motorists.
“A surge in popularity and big steps in technology have led to a price drop, and a reduction in size, so they are now affordable for most of us.
“If you’re a safe, conscientious driver, a dash cam helps protect your no-claims bonus, as well as guarding against dangerous drivers, road rage incidents, ‘crash-for-cash’ scams and even minor car park knocks.”
For those thinking of fitting a dash cam, or who already have one, GEM has answered some of the most common questions relating to fitting and using a dash cam.
What is a dash cam?
It’s a video cameras that is mounted on the dashboard or windscreen of a car. Generally powered by the car’s 12v system, it continuously records the view of the road and traffic through the windscreen.
How does it store footage?
Typically a dash cam continuously records video footage either on an internal memory or a removable card (such as an SD card). When the memory fills, the camera automatically overwrites the oldest files. So you should be able to set it up then leave it until you need it.
Do I have to tell others that I’m using a dash cam to record?
No. In the UK, if the car is yours and yours alone, and you are not using it for business (such as taxi work), it is legal to use one without notifying anyone else that you’re recording.
Where’s the best place to fit it?
Fit your dashcam in the centre of your windscreen, behind the rear view mirror. Ensure it does not obstruct your forward vision and that the screen is deactivated while you are driving. Driving with it either blocking your view or showing a live image could land you in trouble with the police.
What are the advantages of a dashcam?
As fraudulent insurance claims increase, a dash cam provides vital evidence of what actually happened and who may have been involved. Following a collision or incident on the road, a driver’s memory of events or the position and action of other motorists can sometimes be unclear, while a dishonest motorist may be less likely to pursue a claim knowing that video evidence is available.
Can I save on insurance?
The installation of a dash cam could see a discount (typically 10 per cent or more) from some insurance company, so it is always worth asking what they can offer.
Can I share my footage of a dangerous driving incident with the police?
An increasing number of police forces are accepting dash cam submissions showing dangerous driving, driving without due care and attention, using a mobile phone, not wearing a seat belt, contravening a red traffic light, contravening solid white lines and other offences where the driver is clearly not in proper control of the vehicle.
Would I need to go to court?
The typical process is that you complete a ‘statement’ when you upload your footage. This involves answering a few pre-formatted questions. Estimates suggest that fewer than two per cent of people submitting dash cam footage have to attend court. However, if you are not prepared for the possibility of attending court, then you should not submit the footage.
Could the footage recorded on my dash cam be used against me?
Yes. If you’re involved in a collision, or are stopped by the police for committing an offence, then officers could seize your dash cam or could require you to present its footage for them to review.
GEM road safety officer Neil Worth adds: “Fitting a dash cam is a good move for road safety,” he says. “Once installed, it’s good to know it can protect you in incidents where it might otherwise be your word against someone else’s.”