My first car accident as a driver was fairly minor. No one wants to hear that sound of metal on metal, but no one was injured, both cars had only scrapes, and my newborn slept on in the back seat. We exchanged details and went on our way.
The letter from my insurance company was a nasty shock: the other driver claimed that his car was written off and he and his mum had expanded into a party of five, all of whom had suffered long term injuries, and the fault was mine. I was lucky – my passenger was a former driving instructor and my car was virtually undamaged, so my insurance company believed me.
Despite this it took three years to settle the claim in my favour, during which time my premiums reached stratospheric heights.
It was a cash for crash scam, and if I had had a dashcam, or dashboard camera it would have been settled in my favour in days. These crimes cost an estimated £340m a year resulting in increased insurance premiums for motorists.
Dashcams seem like the answer to insurers’ prayers, with many offering discounted premiums for drivers who install them. They first came to attention in the UK from the many videos of the Chelyabinsk meteor in Russia, where they were already in common use. Their popularity in the UK has rocketed in the past few years, and police now regularly ask for dashcam footage at accidents to quickly establish fault.
Car manufacturers have been reluctant to preinstall dashcams, but they are easily added to your car. They come at a variety of price points, ranging from a few pounds into the thousands. The most basic are not really worthwhile, as the quality of footage will generally not be good enough for insurers or police, but most people should be able to find something suitable in the £60-150 range.
It’s important to get a camera that will suit your individual needs. Things to consider:
- You may not need good low light performance if you mostly drive in the day, but otherwise it’s definitely a must to capture number plates.
- If you change cars frequently you’ll need one that is easy to transport – some use adhesive pads that are very difficult to remove.
- Do you want something hidden away, or more obvious? A prominent dashcam is often a deterrent to other drivers.
- The wider the screen, the more likely you are to get useful footage
- Additional features such as wifi connection, speed camera warnings, lane depature detection and impact sensors.
Not all countries have welcomed dashcams so wholeheartedly - they are illegal in Austria and severely restricted in many European countries and some US States due to privacy concerns, so it’s worth checking the local laws before taking one abroad. Finally, bear in mind that your footage will only ever be as good as your windscreen allows, so keep it clean, inside and out.
By Jools Crowley at 15 Dec 2017, 00:00 AM