What Are Dashcams?
So what are dashcams? As the name suggests, a dashcam (or dash cam’) is a ‘dashboard camera’, a tiny device not unlike the portable satnavs that we’ve used for years. Dashcams come in front and rear-mounted form and consist of a miniature video camera and storage media combo. This constantly records the view of the road ahead or, with secondary (rear) dashcams, the road behind. Some dashcams also record sound and even video from the car cabin. Leading brands include Nextbase, Garmin, BlackVue, Kenwood and RoadAngel.
In an age when accidents, crash-for-cash scams, road rage and even carjacking are sad facts of life, it’s not hard to appreciate the value of having a dashcam in your vehicle. As Neil Whittle from RSA Motability says: ‘Dashcam footage can sometimes be the best “witness” possible…not only helpful in proving who caused an accident, but…to prove the number of occupants in a vehicle at the time... For example, if someone is claiming for whiplash, a dashcam can, at the very least, show that they were actually in the car at the time of the accident.’
How Do They Work?
Dashcams are fitted with built-in or portable storage media, typically with a memory size of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB, which gives several hours of recording time. For dashcams with removable storage, this is typically a micro-SD card that you remove and view on a PC or laptop. Many dashcams also have Wi-Fi capability so you can download recordings onto a smartphone.
Dashcams record in a loop, creating a series of videos, each a few minutes long. Because of this loop recording, the camera will automatically record over the oldest video when the storage media is full. It is therefore important to stop recording or download the relevant footage after an accident or incident. With increasing sophistication, many dashcams can now be set to automatically ‘lock’ videos when a notable event takes place.
Other important features, available on many dashcams, include sensing speed and G-force sensing as well as integration with Google Maps and GPS logging to record the vehicle’s location. Even a basic dashcam costing well under £100 is a powerful recording tool. Some manufacturers, notably BMW with its 'Drive Recorder', now offer built-in dashcams on new cars.
How Do You Use A Dashcam?
Once fitted and set up, a dashcam will start recording from the moment the vehicle ignition is switched on. Some systems can even record while vehicles are parked. Although default settings should be enough for many driver’s needs, dashcams typically include a wide range of options to fine-tune the unit’s performance. It’s always worth reading the instructions thoroughly or asking your installer for advice. You’ll be amazed what these devices can do.
What’s The Law On Dashcams?
Dashcams are legal on UK roads and you don’t need special permission to fit and use them. However, to meet the requirements of The Highway Code, dashcams must be positioned correctly, so they don’t obscure vision through the windscreen. This usually means putting them behind the rear-view mirror. It’s an important detail because evidence from an incorrectly positioned dashcam might not be admissible in court. You can read a useful overview of UK dashcam law on this Which? magazine web page.
Head beyond the UK and you will find many differences in dashcam law. These particularly concern privacy and how dashcam recordings may be used. These range from UK-like levels of freedom in countries such as Spain, Italy and the Netherlands, to more complex law in places such as Switzerland and Austria. If you’re taking your dashcam-equipped vehicle across the Channel, make sure to do your homework beforehand!
Benefits Of Dashcams For Drivers With A Disability
The benefits of dashcams for drivers with a disability are the same as those for any driver. There’s the obvious ability to record incidents and accidents, plus the priceless reassurance that this brings. Having dashcam evidence can also provide valuable support when dealing with insurance companies, including RSA Motability (the insurer of all Motability vehicles).
If you don't actually drive but you have a carer or a family member who drives your vehicle for you, a dashcam is a great way to make sure that the vehicle is being driven and used how you want it to be. And, for anyone interested in advanced driving, the footage recorded could be used to review your (or someone else's) driving for educational purposes.
Using Dashcams In Motability Vehicles
If you are a Motability customer and you decide that you want to use a dashcam in your vehicle, it will be treated by the scheme like an optional extra, which means the cost of buying the dashcam will be your responsibility.
Even though you would need to pay for a device yourself, we still think that dashcam footage adds extra invaluable reassurance if you ever need to make a claim on the insurance, especially if the accident wasn't your fault.
Most dashcam's can be installed easily by simply sticking the dashcam to your windscreen and plugging the power lead into the cigarette lighter socket (or similar) of the vehicle. It can only be plugged in, and not hard-wired into the vehicle's electrics, as hard-wiring a dashcam to your car isn’t allowed by Motability.
We recommend talking to your Motability Specialist about a dashcam when you order your new vehicle. That way, you can ensure that the supply and fitting of the dashcam is done in the best way to meets your needs, the legal requirements, and Motability’s rules.
What Will You See On The Road Ahead?
You never know what’s going to happen in front of you when you driving. With your new dashcam fitted, look forward to added peace of mind and, indeed, interest, in your driving. As well as obvious benefits if something goes wrong on the road, it’s interesting to review footage of great scenery, other people’s daft driving or a deer that crosses the road ahead of you. Who knows, you might even capture a once-in-a-lifetime newsworthy event on video. Try searching YouTube for ‘dashcam footage of meteorites’ to see what we mean!