Sound Advice from the AA
Protection by Dashboard Cameras
The AA comments “More and more drivers are installing video cameras in their cars to protect against motoring ‘crash for cash’ fraud or even to protect themselves against the possible accusations of careless traffic offences such as tailgating or lane hogging”. Some people are even using it to record their driving experiences, particularly some learners who want to be able to review how they have coped with particular lessons or experiences – especially night driving.
They remind us that the cameras continuously record HD quality video to a memory card, and whilst doing so constantly overwrite previously recorded footage. “So, if you're involved in an incident the related footage can be saved for viewing on a computer, or tablet, together with speed and the specific location data. This can then be shared with the police or your insurer and is admissible as evidence in a British Court of Law”.
The AA’s opinion is that cameras can give you very good protection against crash for cash scams, and can also be helpful in the event of any other type of accident to help establish who was involved, and who was to blame, but they certainly should not be used for vigilante purposes.
Video footage is useful to support an insurance claim and the development of this technology is welcomed and supported by insurers some of whom are now starting to offer premium discounts where cameras are fitted and used. This may be particular relevant for the new or younger driver, where initial premiums may be high.
Protection from car insurance fraud
Car insurance fraud is not a victimless crime - it costs each and every honest policyholder something like £50 on every annual premium. Car insurance fraud is not just a financial crime either - in the case of so called 'crash for cash', or the more recent similar phenomenon ‘flash for cash’, fraudsters target innocent motorists, putting their lives at risk.
They deliberately cause accidents with the intention of making as much money as possible. The proceeds of the subsequent fraudulent and exaggerated insurance claims for vehicle damage, personal injury, and other 'costs' resulting from the 'accident' are used to fund other, often more serious crimes.
Only this week in Sheffield, two men have been jailed for orchestrating a series of "crash-for-cash scams", including one that took place in 2011, involving a bus with up to 40 passengers on board.
The headline at the time in the Daily Mirror said:
Bus crash-for-cash gang staged fake accident with 26 friends on board 'writhing in agony'
Also convicted with them were 9 others, including a First UK bus driver who planned an accident with them, where a number of the bus passengers were supposedly thrown out of their seats and as a result were ‘injured’ in the process. One stupid error made was that some bus passengers had made their request for claim forms from the insurance company before the accident had actually taken place. In all, the claims from these men added up to £500,000. Footage from CCTV and on-bus cameras was used as evidence in the case. The bus damage was only slight as can be seen and the important claims were for personal injury.
Crash for cash - how it works
In most road traffic 'accidents' where one vehicle is hit from behind by another, it is the driver of the car behind that is deemed to be at fault. So in 'crash for cash' scams the aim is to deliberately stage or induce an accident for which the other (following) driver can be blamed.
Fraudsters may also deliberately crash two vehicles together in private or even make a completely fabricated claim for a 'ghost' accident that never happened at all. But of most concern, because it puts innocent members of the public at risk, is the induced accident.
- In the simplest scenario, a car may pull in front of you and brake sharply and suddenly giving you no chance to avoid going into the back of them. Alternatively they may appear to accelerate away from traffic lights or a roundabout normally only to brake sharply for no obvious reason.
- In other examples drivers have reported a car in front slamming on the brakes suddenly when approaching a pedestrian crossing - even though the road ahead was completely clear and there were no pedestrians near or on the crossing.
- There have been many reports of fraudsters going so far as to disconnect the brake lights on their vehicle so that following vehicles have even less chance of stopping in time to avoid the collision
Flash for cash
'Flash for cash' is a more recent phenomenon in which the fraudsters flash their headlights at an innocent driver, apparently to beckon you out of a junction, shops or petrol filling station, only to speed up and induce a crash for which you will be blamed – “I was driving along normally and you just pulled out without looking!”
Gangs will target the vehicles most likely to have insurance and drivers least likely to cause a scene so mums with children in the car, older drivers, well-maintained cars and cars with private plates may all be at higher risk. Many drivers are now fitting cameras because of the rising incidence of this happening, plus other requirements, knowing that it gives security, and that because of this it can also pay for itself easily – many times over.