ALL THE ACTION: If you have a smart phone it’s easy to set it up as a dash cam – your life might even depend on it!Image: DAVE FALL
I spent three months thinking about fitting a dash cam to the windscreen of my car to record – if only for posterity – the antics of drivers who break every rule of the South African highway code – assuming there was ever one in the first place.
Eventually, I've done it - if not conventionally...
I was absolutely livid after nearly losing the front of my car – and quite possibly my life – to a driver from the outer lane of Cape Town's M5 who decided to swerve in front of me after missing his exit.
Had we crashed it would have been his word against mine – assuming we both survived.
So, the dash cam - a positive step for any vehicle owner these days.
These neat little video recorders are hugely popular in Russia due to its citizens' notoriously bad driving (not to mention the weather) and are catching on in Europe, particularly Britain where the device has been used many times as evidence in insurance disputes.
I’ll wager these devices will catch on big time here in SA because, let’s face it, a lot of our drivers can’t possibly have passed a state driving test – at least not honestly.
Perusing a commercial website renowned for selling anything from A-Z I came across a dash cam at R600. I duly bought it but the video quality was really poor and within a few days it packed up, an expensive lesson – so back it was to the drawing board.
A quality dedicated dash cam will set you back R3000, more than I wanted to pay, but I do have an elderly smart phone. Sure enough there’s a whole bunch of apps that cover dash-cam technology.
PRESS THE BUTTON
I tried three or four then decided on the one that worked for me before deciding to spend the princely sum of R39 to buy the HD version of the App.
Without getting too technical the app records continuously and, should the need arise to review, say, the last 60 seconds of viewing (perhaps an incident similar to that on the M5), the program will do it as the press of a button on the camera's screen.
Still images can also be taken - perhaps if you're being threatened or feel abused by another road user. (Or the app works extremely well if you simply want to snap a view site or that glorious trip across Chapman Peak.)
Should the app detect serious deceleration (through hard braking) the camera's accelerometer will automatically switch on, record, then lock that section of video so it can’t be overwritten.
All that was needed was a way to mount the phone on the windscreen. That cheap and nasty dash cam I had already bought came with a sucker mount which I put to good use with a phone clamp - I used a ‘selfie’ tripod arm (available from most camera shops).
Now it’s easy to hook up the ‘Fall’ dash cam/smart phone, aim it forward, and let it be your very own aircraft-style 'black box.
Couple of issues...
A) Be sure to power the phone from a cigarette-lighter socket or USB port or you'll have a flat battery in no time.
B) The phone tends to get rather warm with the windscreen's greenhouse effect. My phone came with a plastic case so I put a sheet of kitchen foil between phone and case and cut a window for the camera lens.