The road to Britain’s dashcam boom

The Tree And The Car

We live in an era where if it hasn’t been filmed, it hasn’t happened, and British motorists using dashboard cameras to record their journeys has doubled over the last year, according to the RAC.

The RAC estimates that 9% of drivers (2.9 million motorists) have fitted dashcams. Add those to the thousands of cycle-helmet cameras, and the result is that millions of mundane journeys – and the occasional accident – are being filmed.

Dashcams represent a loss of faith: can we no longer rely on fellow road-users to tell the truth if we are involved in a crash? Russian drivers were the first to almost universally adopt dashcams because of fears of aggressive motorists, insurance fraud and accidents not being investigated properly.

The cameras have created a social media boom in spectacular and serendipitous crash footage, from planes to meteors, but fears that dashcams are infringing personal privacy have caused them to be banned in Austria, Luxembourg, Portugal and Bavaria, Germany. Many European countries’ police forces do not accept dashcam footage, but such video evidence is increasingly used in investigations over fatal shootings in the United States.

There seem to be few privacy concerns expressed in the US and Britain, where some insurers now offer reduced premiums if motorists fit dashcams. (The choice is, predictably, fairly bewildering, with front-and-back cameras as well as cameras with GPS to prove speed and location.)

Insurers such as RAC, which conveniently sells dashcams, claim that British motorists are buying the devices to protect themselves from fraudsters who abruptly stop in front of another car to cause an accident. I’ve spoken to several minicab drivers who use dashcams, and they say it is to give them peace of mind when driving in urban areas at night.

Most positively, the RAC survey finds that a quarter of motorists think that a dashcam will improve their driving. Can the technology help create safer roads?

Last year, Brenda Holmes allowed the release of footage from the camera belonging to her son, David, 38. It showed the motorcyclist riding along a single-carriageway road in Norfolk and a car turning across him. David’s last word is “Whoa,” before his bike hits the car. He died in the collision. It is hard to think of a more shocking or powerful road-safety message, and it has been watched more than 17m times on YouTube.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Patrick Barkham, for The Guardian on Monday 12th October 2015 17.36 Europe/London

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