- Created: Wednesday, 15 January 2014 14:00
Cameras mounted in cars are becoming more and more popular as a ‘must have’ addition to the modern high-tech vehicle, and for a whole variety of different reasons. Many dashboard camera models are now extremely small and very unobtrusive, but they could prove to be a vital factor in road safety and also in improving the standard of driving. Some cars have them already fitted as standard equipment, or as a specified option when ordering.
Growing numbers of motorists are installing these tiny video cameras in their cars to protect themselves against being wrongly blamed for crashes – and also to report other dangerous drivers to the Police. Already popular in many other countries, the cameras are starting to be used by British drivers in the hope of proving they were not at fault in the event of a collision. ‘Dash-cams’ record the view from the car windscreen and are already widely used in our police vehicles, and in many lorries. They are seen in use in many TV programmes, including the best known of which is the ITV and Channel 4 programme ‘Police, Camera, Action’.
Some users are also passing clips from the cameras to police. This is done to help convict highly dangerous drivers, as well as ‘crash-for-cash’ fraudsters, while others upload dramatic near misses to YouTube.
Tuning in to safer driving for the younger motorist
More than a fifth of UK road deaths in 2011 involved drivers aged 17 to 24 and about 10% of novice drivers are caught committing an offence within their two-year probationary period. Because of this fact, new legislation is being discussed and is currently under consideration. This may include the following.
- Young drivers could have to wait until they are 18 before they take their test - and then a further year to get a full licence.
- Radical rules being considered by ministers also include banning teenage drivers from carrying pals.
- A 12-month "learner period" would mean drivers would have to clock up at least 100 daytime hours behind the wheel and a further 20 hours of supervised night driving.
- A Government commissioned report by the Transport Research Laboratory also suggests newly qualified drivers would - for the first year - be hit by a curfew between 10pm and 5am unless they were carrying a passenger aged over 30 years.
A major reason for the use of dash-cams has recently developed in the USA and is when someone is worried about a new and inexperienced teenage driver either borrowing the family car or owning a car for the first time. Parents are fitting them as a condition for allowing their children to have access to the car. They may even want to know whether their son or daughter is is texting behind the wheel and the dash-cam footage provides irrefutable answers to this and many other aspects of their driving.
A novel development is the American Family Insurance's ‘Teen Safe Driver Programme’ which provides free use of a dash-cam for one year, along with education and professional coaching to help licensed teens become better drivers in their early motoring years – it may soon happen here in the UK as our Insurance companies become more aware of the key role that the camera can play.
The camera records sights and sounds inside and outside the vehicle when triggered by erratic movement, such as swerving, hard braking and sudden acceleration. In the USA the images and sounds are sent wirelessly to a centre where professional driving coaches review the footage. Parents can log in and review a weekly report card featuring the video footage and an assessment of their teens' driving, including comparison with other teen drivers.
The results do not affect car insurance rates or policies; American Family says it never sees the results unless a parent gives the insurance company permission in a special instance, such as to prove another driver's fault in an accident. The company offers a 10% participation discount.
"We've seen immediate and impressive results, including a reduction in risky driving behaviour by about 50% immediately and 70% within the first five weeks,"
Dash cams aren't just about revealing what teens are doing wrong. The footage can also show what they're doing right. Masters says one family used the dash-cam footage to prove their teen driver did not cause an accident, an equally important benefit of the camera for all drivers, not just the young.
They are small and easy to install. Some of the ‘dash-cams’ on the market are just a couple of inches long and can be powered by batteries or even by car lighter sockets. They record high-quality digital footage of the road ahead, even at night, and important clips can be saved on to memory cards before being transferred to home computers.
They are also available with a rear view camera option, which is now fitted as standard in a large number of production cars in the UK, and the reasons being to assist both reversing in safety and parking in difficult spaces.
Regarded as being one of the most sensible new car options – they could well prevent you, or an inexperienced family driver being ‘framed’ in one of the all-too-common insurance scams – and paying the price for a very long time through their already high insurance premiums.
A stitch in time perhaps……..!