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”And

“It wasn’t my fault!”

“Is there an independent witness?”

”No one stopped.”

So goes a fairly typical insurance conversation following an accident, but the final line is about to start changing to “Yes, I’ve got a dash cam.”

Given the current fascination by some of filming every aspect of their lives, it is no surprise that the demand for witness cameras (dash cams) is gathering pace as they become increasingly affordable (from around £200).

Whilst there will be concerns about the ‘big brother’ aspect of recording driving, the general consensus from motor insurers about on board camera technology is positive and cameras look likely to become a standard feature on vehicles in years to come.

The obvious advantage is that the film footage can help establish innocence if you are involved in an accident, although the advantages to insurers go much further. Whether the footage helps to defend a claim or establishes their driver was at fault, either way, it is beneficial if it avoids arguments and potential legal action, enabling insurers to reduce their administration costs by dealing with claims more quickly and efficiently.

Cameras can help identify hit and run offenders and film evidence also helps with accident recollection, as many driver’s memory of exactly what happened can be quite sketchy after an accident. However, dash cams can have much wider indirect benefits as it is felt that drivers tend to drive more carefully if they know their actions are recorded. In turn, Insurers are generally happier with a driver who is prepared to be recorded, feeling they will drive more carefully and be better risks. If all this proves to be the case, dash cams should help reduce claims costs and in turn insurance premiums.

For fleet operators, anything that helps to improve the claims experience on a fleet will be reflected in reducing or at least maintaining lower insurance costs, although insurers are now giving direct discounts off insurance premiums for dash cams and some insurers may have risk management funds to contribute towards the cost of the cameras.

Cameras are already available to aid reversing and help avoid blind spots, (especially on larger vehicles) with some coaches and taxis also using internal cameras to record both the behaviour of passengers and what happened to them in the event of an accident. Looking ahead, the likelihood is camera, tracking and monitoring technology will form part of a comprehensive ‘all seeing’ telematics system which will gradually become a standard feature on most vehicles and will be another step towards driverless cars.

If you are considering a dash dam, it is worth checking if your insurer offers a discount and if so whether a particular specification is required as there are a number of options. They can be portable or hard wired, and fairly basic or more sophisticated models to include GPS technology for location and speed recording (which can help combat fraudulent or exaggerated whiplash claims), sensors to pick up the impact and automatically remove the recording to a separate file to ensure it is not over recorded. Others connect with smart phone technology and some still operate when a vehicle is parked to aid security.

Other than the ‘big brother’ worry, there are few downsides. I have seen some in the middle of windscreen that must obscure the driver’s vision, but if anything does restrict the expanded use of dash cams, it is likely to be data protection issues, especially if footage ends up being stored remotely in the ‘cloud’. The use of dash cams are restricted in other countries, with a complete ban in Austria and it is illegal to use footage on line in a number of other countries.

Interestingly dash cams are widely used in Russia, to protect drivers from both criminals and the Police, accident scammers and false accusations of traffic offences by corrupt Police!

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