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Dash cams surge in popularity

2013-06-06 12:22

KEEPING AN EYE ON THE ROAD AHEAD: Dashcams can be used to document your journey or even aid you in a court battle. Beware though, having dash cam footage might actually backfire if you’re found breaking the law.Image - YouTube

  Video

Spectators at Germany's iconic Nurburgring witnessed a horrifying crash in June. Amazingly, the Honda Civic driver survived - yes, he had a crash cage. Watch the video!

MUNICH, Germany - They never take their eyes off the road and they see everything that happens around your car - dashboard cameras are becoming increasingly popular.

A dash cam can document your driving behaviour and that of drivers around you.

In some cases the surveillance video on such devices is spectacular - such as the images of a meteor shower captured in February2013  by a driver in Chelyabinsk, Russia. The images, in brilliant detail, went on news sites around the world.

RECORDING EVERY MOVE

A growing number of cautious drivers are using cameras to document crashes and even prove guilt or innocence in the case of insurance claims.

In Europe interest has grown although there is no guarantee that a court will recognise video in a legal case.

Watch some typical dash-cam crash video

The typical dash cam is mounted on the ahead of the driver or front passenger using a suction cup and when switched on records the activity in front on your car during a journey. You can also use it to keep an eye on the cabin.

The video can be sent wirelessly and logged to a chip card, enabling it be read on a computer. The camera is powered by a rechargeable battery or a cable attached to the vehicle's power socket. A dash cam can cost from R400 for a basic system to R2500 for a sophisticated set-up.

More complex versions supply a separate camera which records activity inside the vehicle, as well as sound, and uses a GPS receiver for location. Some react to acceleration/deceleration, swerving, hard braking and other potentially hazardous situations. Most automatically overwrite at various intervals.

The dash cams have been used in motorsport for many years. Analysis of cockpit videos helps drivers shave seconds off their lap times by correcting driving errors.

HARD EVIDENCE

Legal expert Markus Schaepe, who works for the German ADAC motoring club, said: "Many drivers just want some hard evidence in case of an accident or if someone makes a claim against them. It's worth noting, however, that the cameras also record third persons."

The legal status of dash cams has not been clarified in most countries and it is by no means certain that such video could help in court.  There is no dash-cam case law in Germany.

Schaepe said: "A video can be used as evidence if the court is satisfied that there has been no manipulation."

In the case of a crash, if authorities have grounds for suspicion, they might confiscate the camera and use the video against the owner.

Cathrin von der Heide of the German Automobile Club said: "The degree to which such video can be used is always within the discretion of the court."

AvD warns members explicitly against relying on video as evidence.

‘BLACK BOXES’ FOR ALL?


Rainer Hillgaertner, spokesman for Auto Club Europa, said: "The videos can lead to the court wanting to examine the accident circumstances more closely... and that can be counter-productive."

Road-safety legal experts will meet in Germany in 2014 to discuss guidelines.

Electronic systems used to monitor driving behaviour have been around for decades. Such "black boxes" - similar in design to those which record flight activity on aircrafts - have been fitted to heavy commercial vehicles since the mid-1990's.

Germany's parliament  pushed for the devices to be installed on all vehicles in 2012. The estimated cost of R9176 per vehicle prompted insurance officials in Germany to question the feasibility.

Germany's motoring associations have derided attempts to create "a transparent driver" whose every activity is documented.
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