The internet is full of astonishing footage recorded by dashboard cameras. Whether it’s Russian meteorites, plane crashes or shocking road rage incidents, it's safe to say these candid recordings have increased the awareness and popularity of these devices.
So, how common are dashboard cameras, why do people use them and what legal issues do they raise?
In 2014, we surveyed more than 1,700 Australian drivers about their use of dashboard cameras and the vast majority said they were already using one or wanted to buy one for insurance cases or in situations involving violent assaults.
In fact, 57 per cent of Australians back the use of ‘dashcams’ with 16 per cent already having a camera and 41 per cent saying they don’t have one but want one.
The use of dashcams is undoubtedly on the rise on our roads and it’s predictable that there will be a similar increase in the use of this type of footage in our courts when dealing with traffic accidents or road rage incidents.
I’m often asked whether dashboard camera footage is admissible as evidence in a court case, and the answer is yes, as long as the dashcam is not used to film a private activity.
At the end of the day, it will always be for the judge to determine the weight given to the use of dashcam footage in evidence.
Dashcam footage can be helpful during court claims in the event of an accident, but drivers must not mistake the camera as a way to actually boost safety.
We’ve certainly seen cases where footage, from a smartphone or CCTV for instance, has been useful as evidence and I expect we’ll start to see more and more insurance or criminal cases involving dashcam footage.
One thing to remember is that while footage may be useful after an incident, drivers must not become complacent about their own driving behaviours or mistake a dashboard camera for some sort of road safety tool.
And finally, whether you use a dashboard camera is your personal choice, but you must ensure the unit doesn’t impede your vision or act as a distraction when behind the wheel.