You’ve probably encountered friends and family who have invested in a dash camera and are raving about it. Or maybe you’ve seen some of the endless YouTube clips with some things these cameras have caught. It can be both entertaining and frightening.
But you might also be wondering what you can actually do with the footage. Is a dash cam admissible in court? Can it help with insurance claims? Are they even legal to use?
To help you with all those questions we have put together this article that will tackle them one by one. We’ll look at dash cam laws and what you need to keep in mind. You’ll also learn how to best use them to your advantage and avoid some of the common mistakes people make.
Just keep reading or jump to the section that is most interesting to you. Then check out some of the best dashcams available on this site and get yours installed in a matter of days.
Frist of all let’s take a look at what they are, what they do and how they work.
Basically, they are small cameras that point out of your car and video record everything that is happening in front of you.
All the video is recorded to an internal memory card and is available for you to look at later. Some devices have a screen built-in so that you can immediately look at footage. While others just record and you have to download the video to your computer to see it.
The great thing is that they constantly record and usually you don’t have to turn them on or off. As soon as you start your engine it will record. And if something happens you have immediate evidence.
Size is very important with these devices. While they are called dashboard cameras, they most often attach to the windscreen. This is because you have a better view from the top center of the front window. But obviously, you don’t want to obstruct your view too much.
This could cause legal issues which we will get to in the legal section below.
As already mentioned they are pretty simple video recording devices. A lot of them look like phones with a lens pointing out from one side or two. If there are two lenses present then the device will record forward and back. That will result in video of the interior of the car and to an extent behind as well.
Once you turn the engine on, power will be supplied through the cigarette lighter. And most devices will then automatically start recording. In earlier versions, you had to keep an eye on the space on internal memory. If it was full then you wouldn’t continue recording.
But these days the majority of cameras come with a continuous loop feature. Once the memory is full it will start deleting the oldest ones first.
On more advanced models, the device will include a g-force sensor. This will register sudden and drastic impacts that would most likely be the result of an accident. When such incidences are encountered, it will automatically mark the video just before and after as not to be deleted. Even with a continuous loop recording you won’t have to worry about losing the evidence.
This is possibly one of the top questions most people have. From a federal law perspective, there is no reason why you cannot install one. But dash cam laws by state do have some subtle restrictions to be aware of.
There are basically two legal issues with these types of cameras.
Firstly, some states have restrictions of how much of your windscreen can be obstructed. The restrictions usually indicate a certain maximum square inch space on the driver and passenger side. For example, you might find that your state has a law that says you cannot install a device more than 5 inches’ square on the driver side.
The easiest way to find out is to speak to a police officer or better yet a lawyer.
The second issue is that of recording others without their consent. Recording video and audio would indicate that it’s a surveillance device. And most states require that all parties to a recording consent to it. At the same time, video only recordings are legal pretty much everywhere when done in public places.
The safest thing you can do is buy the smallest camera with no audio recording. That will make it legal in the majority of places.
If you have any doubt before you submit dashcam footage to police and insurance companies then you should contact a lawyer. The small print of state and municipal laws could end up causing you trouble. So, it’s always best to be on the safe side.
The majority of insurance companies don’t have specific terms and conditions regarding this. However, many insurance cases in the US are now being settled and rejected because of video evidence.
There are two main areas where the video will help.
Firstly, if you’re involved in a car accident and there are conflicting statements, then that can be a difficult situation. How do you prove your statement? This becomes even more difficult if another car involved had several occupants who all blame you. Most times you will be out of luck.
However, if you have video evidence then you can prove exactly what happened. And that can even prove that other people made a false statement.
Another situation that has become very common is people trying to make a fraudulent claim by running into your vehicle while you’re stopped at lights. They then claim you hit them and have some criminal accomplices. With less than $100 invested, you can stop that becoming a costly experience.
Now, with such obvious benefits to avoiding insurance fraud and false claims you’d think that there would be some dash cam car insurance discount available. In the USA that has not yet happened. Mainly because actual data on reduced risk is not yet fully clear.
However, some European countries are now seeing such discounts offered. It is likely to happen in the US at some stage. However, at present there are no such discounts (more on this further down).
Essentially your savings come from avoiding false and fraudulent claims that you can do nothing about.
Some insurance cases can end up in court. Even though that is basically very rare. The damage has to be severe, and in many cases involves criminal negligence or fraud. Where it is going to be a more likely situation is traffic violations and parking tickets.
If you are stopped for running a stop sign and you are 100% certain you did actually stop, then you can submit dash cam evidence in court. This is best done through a lawyer before a court hearing. If the evidence is clear then it’s most likely that a case will be dropped.
For parking violations, it is a little bit trickier. First of all, you would need to invest in a camera that has a motion sensor and records even when the engine is off. It is not unheard of that parking tickets have been issued before the meter is up. With a time-stamped camera recording you can have proof of such situations.
These things are rare, but with just one or two such occurrences your camera can have paid for itself. The important thing is to always submit such evidence through a lawyer. There are usually very specific ways this has to be done. And you don’t want to get the evidence deemed inadmissible because of an error you made.
In the above insurance claims section, we already hinted at the fact that this is currently not the case. US based insurance providers have so far not offered discount rates for installing a dash cam. The official response is somewhat shady.
Essentially, there is no evidence that dash cams significantly reduce the risk involved in driving. This is mainly down to the fact that recording of such data has only recently started. In many ways, the US insurance industry is quite a bit behind some European counterparts.
France and Italy have seen some insurance providers add incentives for having a camera installed. Some provide a reduced rate, while others incentivize the purchase. Either way, you do get to save a bit of money. It’s also not likely that dash cams will completely end fraudulent claims. So, don’t expect huge savings in the future.
The main saving comes from the fact that you can avoid claims against your own insurance. If you’re completely innocent in an accident and witnesses claim otherwise, then you can prove your side of the story.
Now, you would think that with the popularity of these cameras that car makers would start offering them as standard. Or even as an optional extra. It would be an excellent way to not have to install something on your windscreen with a cable running to your cigarette lighter.
The same happened when GPS started to become affordable and popular. All of a sudden you could order a new car with it built in. Again, some European makers are leading the way a bit.
French company Citroen have cameras as optional extras on some of their range. But, as an extra built-in they are still very expensive. Especially when you consider that you can buy one for less than $80. But if cables around the inside dash annoy you then it’s probably a tidier solution.
Will they become standard features like ABS and airbags? Only time will tell, but probably not. They don’t improve safety. And a big push would have to come to make an argument for ending insurance fraud. Whether that will happen is hard to say at this stage.
When you’re trying to figure out what type of dash cam to invest in then there are 3 aspects to consider. Each one of the more advanced features will make it more expensive. But even a top of the range model can be got for less than $200.
So, what are the three main functions to focus on?
Firstly, if you just want some dash cam evidence of accidents, then a forward-facing camera is more than enough. You will want to just make sure that it can record on continuous loop. And also, that it turns on automatically when you switch on the engine. From a legal point of view, you want to make sure it’s not too big.
Secondly, you might want to invest in something that is rear facing as well. This will cover everything happening inside the car. And it will get some coverage of behind your vehicle as well. As a result, you’ll have evidence of rear impacts to prove what actually happened.
Finally, you might want to get a surveillance type camera. This is especially handy to catch parking incidences. Have you ever got back to your car and notices a big scratch or dent? Most likely the cause was another driver with some poor parking skills. If you had a motion-activated camera, then you be able to get some evidence and bring it to the police to investigate. That could save you a load of money in repair costs.
The most important information to take away from this article is that dashcams will help in court and insurance cases. They may not always be accepted. But if the quality and evidence is very clear, then you can easily prove what happened in an accident.
If there is any doubt over the recording, then you should always talk to a lawyer. It can save you thousands in insurance premiums and make sure you don’t become the target of fraud or a scam.
You have probably seen a load of videos shared on social media about crazy scenes that unfold in front of dashcams. Some of these show situations of incredibly obvious insurance scams. But while they are funny to watch, these situations do arise.
Avoiding fraudulent insurance claims is just one reason for owning one. While there are many more reasons, we want to focus your attention on the 7 most important dash cam benefits. By the end of this article, you will fully understand why it can be so important to own one.
For a lot of people these seem to be just a tech gadget in the car that will just end up gathering dust. Will you even remember to turn it on? And if something does happen, will the video even be reliable?
This article might help you understand how important it could actually be.
The simplest way to describe it is that it is a video recording device where the camera points from your car out onto the road in front of you. Essentially it will record everything that is happening so that you have some evidence if something bad happens.
But the way these devices have to be designed is very unique. And in many ways, they are very different to regular video cameras. First of all, they have to cover a very wide field of view, so that you don’t just record what’s directly in front of you. This requires special lenses that can often give you a recording of 120 degrees of view.
That means you are practically recording stuff that is happening next to you as well. This can be important if someone hits you from the side.
Then there are high end products that will not only have one front facing lens. They will also have a rear facing one, so that you can record anything happening behind you.
The video is recorded to an SD card, and if something happens then you can easily download it to your computer. The detailed reasons for owning one are listed below. But if you’d like to know more about how they actually work then keep reading the next section first.
The simplest products will automatically turn on when you start the ignition. That way you don’t forget to hit a record button every time you get into the car.
Once you have your one installed, it is important to regularly check if it is still pointing in the right direction. Simple knocks or even uneven roads can over time result in the alignment being off. That would mean that you don’t end up recording everything you might need.
Once activated they will simply record everything that happens in front and/or behind you. It is a continuous high quality video feed. How much video you can record is dependent on how large your SD memory card is.
Once the card is full, most devices will start to overwrite older video. That way you can just keep recording even on longer journeys. Dependent on the model you have, there are two ways that a recording can be protected from being deleted or overwritten.
In basic models, there can be a button that, when pressed, will permanently store anything that happened 1 or 2 minutes before. High end models will measure G forces. And if a significant impact is detected, it will automatically protect the video recording from deletion.
Even though they are called dashboard cameras, they don’t often attach to the dashboard. Instead the attachment can be on the windshield. And in many places that can be deemed to be obstructing your view.
So, the first legal question is how much, if any, of your view can be obstructed. Dash cam legality by state is a difficult topic as it is changing so much all the time. Some states have no restrictions at all. Others have some restriction, and then there are some that prohibit them being attached to the windshield altogether.
The other possible legal issue is that of surveillance. There are no federal laws against video recording, but audio is different altogether. Some states have one party consent, and others have two party consent, while in public. That means that you often cannot just record someone without having their permission to do so.
If you are in doubt then you can always contact your local police department or a traffic lawyer with expertise in this area. This is the safest way to avoid any fines for doing something that is against the law.
A safe option is to go for a device that is actually not mounted to the windshield. Instead it should be mounted somewhere that it poses no obstruction to your view at all. Also, you could be safer off buying one that only records video and no audio.
If you don’t yet own a dash cam and are wondering what all the fuss is about, then these following sections will help you make up your mind. Some or all of these can happen. They regularly happen to innocent drivers. And a relatively small investment can pay off massively in many situations.
Accidents happen. Most of them are going to be simple metal damage, but even that can run into thousands of Dollars. But if you are convinced that a crash wasn’t your fault, and you were alone driving your car, then how do you prove what happened?
When there is a clear video recording of what exactly led up to the accident, then you can review it and submit it to law enforcement and/or an insurance company.
If it clearly shows that another driver was in the wrong, then you can avoid claims against your insurance. And that can save you a ton of money on your premiums.
Insurance companies have started accepting video footage as part of claims disputes. But what hasn’t really happened is offering discounts on premiums for having one. The main reason is that the impact of their use on actual claims is not yet fully known, so it’s difficult to put a dash cam car insurance discount percentage on it.
Some countries in Europe have seen proactive insurers offering premium reductions, and it could happen in the USA soon as well. For the time being though, you will have to settle for having evidence of a crash.
Insurance fraud is a lot more common than you might believe. Small car accidents or collisions with pedestrians can end up in very large payouts. And here are a lot of crooks out there trying to take advantage.
Imagine standing at a stop sign and a cyclist deliberately runs into you. You’re on your own and the cyclist claims you hit him by running the stop sign. Fraudsters like this often work in gangs, and all of a sudden there will be other people who witnessed it.
With actual video footage of the event you will be able to settle and even counter claim for any damage to your car. Not only will it save you money on huge premium increases. But you can even make sure that any damage you sustained is paid for.
And, you can help catch fraudsters like this so that they are dealt with in the legal system. Insurance fraud and making a false statement to police about an accident are crimes. And many states are cracking down on such behavior.
The absolute best way to protect yourself from fraud like this is by having a constantly recording dashcam. Evidence like that speaks for itself.
Have you ever been stopped for a traffic violation, knowing that you did nothing wrong? Maybe you were accused of running a stop sign. It’s your word against a cop and that usually only goes one way.
If you have a recording of the events just before being stopped, then you can go back and watch what actually happened. Maybe you were distracted, and the ticket is valid. Or maybe it proves that you behaved in a perfectly legal way. Evidence like that can be submitted to have a ticket overturned.
Another situation you might find yourself in is being wrongfully given a parking ticket. It is not unheard of that tickets are issued before your parking time is up. Dashcams will usually record video with a time stamp and that will be able to show you exactly when a ticket was placed and if it was done so wrongly.
Does dash cam work when car is off? That depends on how you have it set up and there are many devices that can activate when motion is detected. Or they just continuously record onto a large enough SD card. You can buy some relatively inexpensive cards that will hold many hours of video.
Most devices can be used as an anti theft dash cam. It will not prevent your car from being stolen. In that case, the camera and recordings will be gone as well. But thieves often do less than steel your car. For example, they might break in to try and steel something from inside your car or trunk.
You might ask: should I leave dashcam in car? The answer is yes, if it can continually record or is motion activated. It might just be enough to scare off a thief with an eye on your stereo or something else.
This is probably one of the most annoying things that can happen. You park your car and when you get back there is big scratch along the side. It can be quite expensive to get such things properly repaired. Or worse, there is a huge dent in your fender because someone hit you while parking.
These incidences can happen when other cars reverse into you. Or someone with an overflowing shopping cart loses control and causes damage to your car. And with most CCTV footage not exactly being crystal clear you will find it practically impossible to find the person responsible.
But if you have a motion detecting dash cam installed then you can quickly check what happened. With a large enough angle of view, you’ll be able to see exactly who did the damage and then report it to the police.
Teaching youngsters how to drive can be quite a challenge. It’s a stressful time and often they won’t understand their mistakes just by having them verbally explained. If you have a recording of the actual driving they are doing then you can quickly review any mistakes.
Some models will have a small screen on the back of them. So, you could even get a learner driver to pull over and immediately watch what went wrong when these things are still fresh in their memory.
Being able to study and see what happened is the best way to learn to become a better driver. So, if you are teaching one of your children to drive, then help them out with some high-quality recordings. Many driver training schools are even introducing this technique, because it is so effective.
At this stage, you will have all the information you need to really understand what the biggest benefits are. Even a basic model will be worth the investment if it puts you in the right for just one minor traffic or parking incidence. They are easy to install and can practically work on autopilot.
The only dash cam disadvantages that really exist are when there might be legal issues to using them. If you do live in a state where there are restrictions, then don’t tempt the law, as that can quickly go against you.
So, do you buy a dash cam or not? We think the answer should be yes.