Dashboard View of CarIt used to be that only emergency vehicles and police cars had “dash cams”—tiny cameras that sit on the dashboard and record activity in or around the car. Today, however, motorists of all types are installing dash cams in their vehicles for various purposes. Do you need a dash cam in your car?

Reasons To Have A Dash Cam
There are several reasons motorists may want to install a small dashboard camera. In some countries, dash cams have become common to ward off scams and government abuse of drivers. For example, in Russia, a common trick is to stage an accident then demand money from the hapless victim in exchange for not calling the police. This technique is actually growing in the United States with partners sometimes staging hit-and-run or other types of accidents then threatening motorists with lawsuits. A dash cam can provide safety from these types of maneuvers by giving motorists documented proof of what happened in an accident.

Another reason to install a dash cam could be to record driver activity in a vehicle. For example, some parents have decided to install dash cams in their vehicles so that they can monitor their teen’s driving habits. While not all parents agree with this practice, those who use it claim that their teens are safer drivers due to the ever-presence “watchful eye” of the dash cam.

Can I Get An Insurance Break For A Dash Cam?
Currently, United States auto insurers are not offering financial incentives for installing or using dash cams. However, it is not out of the question that some insurers may soon see the benefits of encouraging the use of these devices. In fact, some insurers are now offering “snapshot” discounts that hinge on adding a computer dashboard device that tracks speed and braking behavior; it may soon be that these companies also install cameras to give them access to other driver behavior. Dash cams could also be used to monitor drinking and driving in conjunction with ignition interlock devices as well as to monitor activity outside the car such as rear-end or side-swipe collisions whose circumstance may not be clear to the car’s driver.

If insurance companies recognize the benefits of dash cams, it is very possible that they will begin offering financial discounts to customers who install them in their vehicles. At current prices, a ten percent discount on insurance premiums would probably pay for the average dash cam within a year.

How Expensive Are Dash Cams?
Dash cams have come down in price tremendously over the past few years. Cameras average in price from $100 to $150, although more expensive and cheaper models are also available. The more expensive the model, the more features it usually has. For example, very expensive dash cams may actually consist of several cameras placed strategically around the vehicle so that several angles are covered.

Can I Use Dash Cam Footage Legally?
Dash cams are perfectly legal but must be installed according to regulations to avoid blocking the driver’s view. In most cases, a five-inch square on the driver’s side or a seven-inch square on the passenger’s side is necessary to provide adequate clearance for the camera; this is the limit allowed before the camera becomes a visibility hazard.

The problem with dash cams comes usually not with recording sight but sound. Some cameras offer sound recording as well as visual; this may violate state wiretapping laws if another person does not know he or she is being recorded.

Finally, not all the evidence gathered from a dash cam is admissible in court. Depending on the state, some courts will allow any footage to be used in a criminal prosecution or in a civil trial. Other courts may allow footage only in civil litigation, and some states do not allow it to be used at all.

Before you purchase a dash cam, be sure to review your state’s laws about electronic surveillance or ask a law enforcement officer if installing a dash cam is legal in your state and how much room you need to install one on your windshield or rearview mirror.

Dash cams can provide you with a great deal of security and may be pivotal in proving your case if you are involved in an accident. You may also want to consider a dash cam to monitor the behavior of anyone else who is driving your car. These benefits may ultimately help you save money on your car insurance even if your company does not currently offer a dash cam discount.