The Dash Cam: Should You Have One in Your Car?

car windshield with multiple dash cams on it

Dash cam footage has quickly become another source of evidence for everyone from drivers to police officers to the general public. At Quoted, we’re particularly interested in the ways in which drivers are using dash cams to protect themselves while driving. Though dash cams are still rare enough in the U.S. that, as of this writing, no major auto insurance companies offer discounts or incentives for using them, there’s already a pile of evidence that dash cams can help in car crash disputes, as well as other roadway incidents.

Dash Cam Footage as Evidence in Car Crashes

“Incidents such as parking lot accidents, intersection collisions due to the other driver violating your right-of-way, and hit-and-run collisions (think: getting the other driver’s license plate number) are all instances where a dash cam can shed light on the finer details of the situation,” explains The Zebra’s insurance expert, Neil Richardson.

During disputes about fault, a dash cam could offer an impartial eyewitness account that’s hard to come by otherwise, benefiting both driver and insurance company (as long as the owner of the dash cam was in the right). Video evidence could speed up the claims process by eliminating the need for the insurance company to sift through photos and eyewitness accounts. Keep in mind, “The street runs both ways,” writes NBC 9NEWS Legal Analyst Scott Robinson. “Yes, you can use it to prove your side of a dispute, but it may be used against you to show you were at fault.”

If you have a dash cam and you plan to use it as evidence should the need arise, Neil has a few tips: “Dash cam video, should be treated just like taking pictures of your post-crash damage and kept in the records that you will be sharing with the company with which you are filing the claim.”

Though dash cam use is still new and sparse enough that not much data exists that can point to whether or not insurance companies and law enforcement will move toward seeking dash cam footage in the future, Neil believes that because insurers ask for photo evidence, dash cam footage is the next logical step. “If a picture is worth a thousand words,” Neil says, “then a video of the incident is exponentially more valuable to a claims adjuster.” And an officer interviewed by NBC 9NEWS said, “We’re just starting to see more of them involved in the crashes we do investigate. They’re an investigative tool for us.”

dash cam view of cars
Photo: NBC News

Popularity of Dash Cams Abroad

Dash cams rose to popularity in several other countries before becoming popular in the U.S. In Russia, dash cams helped people combat rampant insurance fraud, both from other drivers and from the police, NBC reported. “Consumer dashboard cameras are emerging more often in the U.S. as major electronics brands see a demand among people who want to protect themselves.”

However, not all countries are receptive to dash cams: “Some countries have fought back against dash cams, citing data protection laws. Austria has banned them outright, while Switzerland strongly discourages their use. German drivers, meanwhile, are forbidden from posting dash-cam clips online—an increasingly common phenomenon—and may only use their footage for personal reasons or in court,” writes Car Buyer.

A quick perusal of YouTube demonstrates that it’s becoming more and more common for events on the road to be recorded and uploaded online in the U.S., often for either entertainment or shaming purposes. “In Colorado,” says NBC, “Josh Schaffer runs the YouTube channel Denver Dash Cam. His videos feature people running red lights and even a truck that accidentally dumped a load of rocks in the middle of the road.”

motorcyclist with gopro helmet drives on road
Motorcyclist brings GoPro as his personal “dash cam.” Will similar tools work well for cars?

Dash Cam Benefits to U.S. Drivers

The draw of dash cams in the U.S., for now, seems mostly to capture interesting events and can offer the bonus of extra evidence during an insurance claims process, but their use is by no means standardized and insurance companies don’t currently have official policies about their use.

Auto insurance companies don’t yet offer discounts or incentives for customers using dash cams, but that could change, of course, as their use becomes more common and if insurers find they help settle disputes.

How to Choose a Dash Cam

Dash cams are almost always an after-market addition to vehicles in the U.S., as automakers haven’t started including them standard. The Wire Cutter offers a detailed review of dash cams, for those in the market, and another comprehensive list of what’s available can be found here. But in general, it’s a good idea to start your search knowing how you want to use the camera. For instance, if extra evidence in the event of a crash is your top priority, you’ll need to choose a dash cam that can actually capture the proper details.

LyfeLens dash camera
LyfeLens dash cam (Photo: Forbes)

Car Buyer highlights a few important features drivers hoping to use footage as evidence should look for:

  • Good resolution and lens quality: you want to be able to read license plate numbers.
  • A button that allows for clip saving, or a g-force sensor which, when an impact is detected, automatically protects footage from being recorded over.
  • Good quality video both day and night (grainy night-vision won’t help you with law enforcement or insurance companies).

Do you use a dash cam? Tell us all the details in the comments!