By Shell on Jun. 14, 2022
Peer into a random vehicle in Australian traffic and you’ve got more than a good chance of seeing an in-car camera, or dash cam, on the dash or hanging off the windscreen – one in four, according to a 2021 survey by UK dash-cam manufacturer Nextbase.
But what if you’re one of the three in four Australians who aren’t using a dash cam to record their driving: are you potentially leaving yourself exposed?
While a dash cam’s key attraction – the ability to provide reliable evidence that could potentially prove your innocence on an insurance claim or legal wrangle – can’t be overstated, they also have some lesser known pitfalls. Here’s what you need to know before you lay your dollars on the line.
If you’re in a traffic incident and aren’t the driver at fault, a dash cam can give you the evidence you need to prove it. If that saves you from paying an excess on your insurance or losing your rating, it could well end up paying for itself.
Get one that also records while your car is parked and you’re potentially gaining protection from random car-damaging events as well (say a parking bingle, vandalism or a branch falling on your car).
While Australian insurance companies don’t go as far as offering a specific dash-cam discount, they do encourage their customers to provide footage to assist the claims process – and if a dash cam helps you avoid higher insurance costs, well, that’s something of a discount in itself.
A dash cam might also just make you a more conscientious, safer driver. That Nextbase survey found about one in four Australian dash-cam owners changed their driving behaviours when they thought the camera might be recording.
If you’re digitally savvy and get lucky, you could even end up the custodian of the internet’s next viral hit video. And not just wild traffic-related footage – many viral videos of animals, meteors and other natural phenomena have sprouted from a humble dash-cam recording.
The dash-cam market spans a wide range of functionality and, like most things, you need to pay more to get more. The cheapest unit might only offer forward recording, leaving you unprotected from the most common traffic accidents – rear-enders. For rear, 360-degree and parked-car surveillance, the highest quality footage or user-friendly features such as apps that allow you to view footage from your smartphone, you’ll be spending more.
Go for a high-spec dash-cam system and it might also need to be wired up to your car, bringing installation costs – and potential installation issues – into the frame.
Like anything of value that’s easily grabbed and sitting in view in a parked car, a dash cam can increase the risk of theft from your car. It might not necessarily make you a safer driver either. In addition to being a potential distraction, it can create a blindspot in a driver’s forward view – and in a worst-case scenario, any blindspot is risky.
A dash cam’s key attraction – the ability to provide reliable evidence – is also a double-edged sword. Rather than proving you weren’t at fault, your dash-cam could actually end up incriminating you if you weren’t doing the right thing. A poorly positioned installation could be used against you if it was proven to have created a blindspot that contributed to a traffic incident.
And if you do end up with some must-watch dash-cam footage and are thinking of letting it loose on the internet, you really need to take a step back and have think about what you’re doing first. Are you potentially violating someone else’s privacy and breaking privacy laws? Is the footage crucial evidence in a court case? These and other questions need to be answered – and, if in doubt, legal advice sought – before you hit the share button and potentially put yourself in legal jeopardy.