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Why you may want a dash cam in your car

Chances are you won't get to film a meteor, as drivers in Russia did, but installing a dashboard-mounted camera may protect you from idiots and scammers.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 18, 2013 2:05PM

This post comes from Barbara Marquand at partner site logoDashboard cameras installed by Russian drivers caught the recent meteor in brilliant detail. But why do all those Russians have dash cams in the first place?


Dangerous Drive © Vladimir Maravic, Vetta, Getty ImagesIf you've been unfairly accused of causing a wreck, then you can probably understand why. In Russia, the accusation isn't merely the beginning of a months-long battle with insurance companies. Instead, as Slate explains, it's usually accompanied by a demand for immediate payment and a threat to call police.


In the United States, police have been using dash cams for decades to record evidence at traffic stops. Now the technology has begun to catch on among civilians.


The dashboard-mounted cameras record the sights and sounds while the car is driven, providing footage to document what happens on the road or in the car. While no company yet offers an insurance discount for adults who have installed a camera, at least one sees the value in monitoring new drivers.


The dash cams join a widening array of technology -- such as the onboard data recorders installed in all new cars and the pay-as-you-drive devices that bring discounts to cautious drivers -- that can document your behind-the-wheel behavior.


The biggest reason for sales growth: plummeting prices.


Catch it on video for $100

Marc Horowitz, a spokesman for BrickHouse Security in New York, which sells security and surveillance products, says online search traffic for dash cams, as well as sales of the company's products, doubled in 2012 compared with 2011.


The technology became available on the consumer market about 10 years ago, Horowitz says, but at that time a decent dash cam retailed for thousands of dollars. Now, you can get a basic model for under $100.


For twice that amount, you can get something as fancy as BrickHouse's dual-camera model that records high-definition video even in total darkness. One camera faces forward to record what's happening on the road, and a rear-facing camera records what's happening inside the car. A G-force sensor automatically saves files in case of an accident. For another 100 bucks, you can get a dash cam with GPS, which logs data for review on a PC.


Horowitz says buyers generally fall into two categories:

  • "No. 1 is someone worried about a teen driver," he says. Parents are buying them as a condition for letting a teen have access to a car. Want to know whether your teen is texting behind the wheel? Dash-cam footage provides irrefutable answers.
  • The second category is made up of drivers who saw their car insurance rates go up or were stuck paying their collision deductibles for accidents they didn't cause. Dash-cam video footage can provide sweet satisfaction in his-word-against-mine cases.
Evidence against scammers and idiots

A slew of dashboard camera video clips are posted on YouTube, including a clip that purports to show a scammer running into the road and then faking getting hit by a car that's already pulled to a stop.


Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, says he's unaware of dash-cam video footage being used to prove any fraud cases referred to the bureau for investigation. But the technology has potential to fight fraud, he says.


"Video is an awesome piece of evidence," he says. "In a perfect world, could a video help thwart auto theft or fraud? Absolutely."


He says truckers are using them because they say they're often unfairly blamed for accidents.


"I think you'll see insurance companies warming up to the idea of giving customers discounts for using the technology," he says.


Tune in to your teen driver

American Family Insurance's Teen Safe Driver Program provides free use of a dash cam for one year, along with education and professional coaching to help licensed teens become better drivers.


The camera records sights and sounds inside and outside the vehicle when triggered by erratic movement, such as swerving, hard braking and sudden acceleration. The images and sounds are sent wirelessly to a center where professional driving coaches review the footage. Parents can log in and review a weekly report card featuring the video footage and an assessment of their teens' driving, including comparison with other teen drivers.


The results do not affect car insurance rates or policies; American Family says it never sees the results (unless a parent gives the insurance company permission in a special instance, such as to prove another driver's fault in an accident).


More than 11,000 families have taken part in the program since the insurer began offering it in 2007, American Family spokeswoman Janet Masters says. The company offers a 10% participation discount in Colorado and Minnesota.


"We've seen immediate and impressive results, including a reduction in risky driving behaviors by about 50% immediately and 70% within the first five weeks," Masters says.


Dash cams aren't just about revealing what teens are doing wrong. The footage can also show what they're doing right. Masters says one family used the dash-cam footage to prove their teen driver did not cause an accident.


More on and MSN Money:

Feb 18, 2013 4:59PM
The pay as you drive features are for the government to tax us by the mile.  We should refuse to purchase cars with this feature.  If we don't, then we are just asking for the new taxes.  Last I heard ,7 states were studying this.  Don't think for a minute that broke states and the carbon foot print boozos won't vote this in overnight.  But if we don't buy these cars, the companies will lobby the government to tax somewhere else.
Feb 18, 2013 6:28PM
We all ready have pay as you drive cars their called rental cars. If you want a rental car go rent one.
Feb 19, 2013 9:33AM
Its a good idea. It promotes safe driving. Unless your an unsafe driver, I can't see why insurance companies wouldn't give a discount for the use of one. Progessive has Snapshot which is a downloadable Car Chip Pro(which I have in my daughters truck). Alot of ambulances carry a safe driving module for speed,acerleration,braking and turns. GoPro's in cars. It'd sure turn the tables on texting and cell phone abuse while driving a 3 ton guided projectile down the road.
Feb 19, 2013 2:01PM
Great idea. I could have used one a few years ago.
Feb 19, 2013 2:01PM
I believe it is against the law in Florida to videotape an individual without their permission.  How would this work with dash cams?
Feb 18, 2013 6:46PM

Our fore fathers would roll over in their graves if they knew about cameras in stores,

tapping of phones,opening of mail,assults weapons, and our rights being abolished.

Feb 19, 2013 11:53AM

Here we GO!  Dash cams.  Right.  Well, who knows, maybe YOU will get to record the next meteor, Big Foot crossing your road, a Martian landing up ahead.  Oh, and as the fear-mongers bank on, MAYBE you will record someone trying to get YOU to hit them - something someone called "unfairly causing an accident".  What a hoot.  An "unfair" accident?  No, just kidding! It's true - there are folks out there trying to cause rear-enders so that they can sue you.  Scams are a part of the human condition, it seems.


That's WHY all those Russians did get to record that meteor, you know.  Because there ARE lots of such scammers OVER THERE, and the rest of the citizens have adopted the dash-cam in order to try and protect themselves.  But, I'll stress that those scammers are mostly OVER THERE.  While it does happen here, it's really not very common.  But go ahead. Get a dash cam if it makes you happy - after all, seems that many drivers don't care to learn to drive in ways that AVOID getting into accidents.  Yes, folks, you do NOT have to get caught by an accident-scammer - he/she can ONLY catch a driver who is pretty much driving head-in-clouds.   Of course, IF you plan on going to Russia and driving... from what I saw on those dash-cam videos, there were more than a few crazies on the road!


As to US insurance companies giving "discounts" for those who buy or have one of these cameras, or a monitor - recorder on their car, as mentioned in some  posts:  remember that this "discount" will only happen as long as only some - not MOST - cars and drivers have these!  As soon as most or all have them, you can take it to the bank that there will be no more discounts.   Insurance companies want you to have one - means that they see it as a way to save THEM money.  They will give a discount only as long as it's to their benefit to do so - when most or all have them, the company no longer SAVES any money by differentially treating policy-holders, and so has no incentive to keep a lower rate for those who do this...


Recorders and cameras will sadly enough become a matter of law - as it will give yet another inroad for taxation.  And of course this will create a ready market for others to figure out how to beat, disable, and scam these recorders.   Fancy that.  Another opportunity for a SCAM! 

Mar 23, 2013 8:09AM
A dash cam for your vehicle is a smart investment. But there is a lot of cheap systems out there that save in .avi segments that actually stop recording while saving that segment. Which results in a 4-6 second time loss. So much can happen in that time. 
For those serious about protecting themselves don't expect a quality unit for less than $200. Like radar detectors. They have cheap ones that let you know you just got a ticket, and they have good ones that give you solid warning time. 
Don't scrimp on a dash cam. only sells quality products and will never sell those cheap budget cameras. Professional Truckers nationwide and throughout Canada are using our systems. Check us out. Ask us questions. We are there to help. 
Mar 2, 2013 2:22PM
I followed the advice and bought one of these dash cams from
Smartest $100 investment I can ever make !!

Feb 18, 2013 7:28PM
Number one reason---record all police activity and get it turned in, I have seen hundreds of serious failures done by these idiots (even killings in 4 cases). These then turn around and expect pristine driving from everyone else, and all of them must then be fired automatically if they do not obey regular traffic laws, like they get punished in northern EU. now that was simple -and in northern EU it takes up to 7 years to get to even drive a police car while/after in school/college-- PS you are not actually afraid of them in this freedom country, that you would wind up dead, with a no serial number gun by your side, are you?---why do you think I would even think about writing such a statement?
Feb 18, 2013 4:25PM
Besides, it gives crooks and thugs another reason to do more damage to your car. As long as they're in there for the camera, they might as well steal the whole car and use it in a robbery or a drive-by that might not have happened if you hadn't had that stupid camera on the dash. Idiots.
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