In the past, the notion of an always-on camera recording your road view seemed unusual. However, today, more drivers appreciate the advantages, like added peace of mind during accidents or incidents, that these nifty accessories provide. Read on to discover more…
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.
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.
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.
Numerous apps can transform your smartphone into a makeshift dashcam, but they differ in functionality and typically offer lower resolution than dedicated dashcams. Many of these apps can also integrate with other applications on your phone to record precise location, speed, and additional information.
Finding the right dashcam for you can be overwhelming, so we recommend determining your specific needs and then either selecting a suitable model yourself or seeking advice from your preferred retailer.
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. If you’re taking your dashcam-equipped vehicle across the Channel, make sure to do your homework beforehand!
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 Direct Line (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.
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.
You can never predict what lies ahead while you're behind the wheel. However, with your newly installed dashcam you can anticipate an extra layer of assurance and, indeed, interest during your journeys. Aside from the obvious advantages in case of road mishaps, it's intriguing to revisit footage showcasing great scenery, instances of daft driving by others, or even a deer gracefully crossing your path. Who can say? You might even capture a momentous, newsworthy event that occurs once in a lifetime on video. Search YouTube for "dashcam meteorite footage" to get a glimpse of what we're talking about!