What are dash cams and why do we need them?

By Anna Kantilaftas, 21 Apr 2017 Car Advice

What are dash cams and why do we need them?

Dash cams provide more value than just hours of YouTube entertainment. But are they really worth the investment?

You’re driving along and an erratic driver cuts you off. You slam on your brakes but it’s too late and suddenly you find your bonnet’s metal crushed into another car’s rear.

There’s glass covering the road, a puff of steam rising from your car, and a spray of obscenities uncontrollably leaking from your lips because you know what’s to follow.

Nose-to-tail accidents are usually open-and-shut cases in the eyes of the Police and insurance companies, and if it’s your bonnet in someone else’s boot, then it’s likely to be your backside on the chopping block.

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Incidents where drivers have purposely tried to cause other drivers to ram in to the back of them, or desperate pedestrians jumping in front of moving cars as is the case in some countries, all for the sake of an insurance claim, have increased the popularity of dash cams.

Dash cams are dashboard-mounted cameras that record the road ahead of you as you drive and can cost anywhere from $40 to $400, depending on the level of sophistication you want. They offer a range of features including recording sound as well as vision, night-vision, GPS logging, automatic save and rear view recording.

Their purpose is to offer drivers access to extra evidence when making a claim or police report, rather than purely relying on their own version of the story, which can be disputed by witness and the other party’s version of events. They use a loop recording method which means they periodically tape over older footage.

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If there is an incident, only the most recent and relevant recording is stored.

Experts suggest that while the footage can be used to support your statement, you should still take the usual steps post-accident: speaking to eye witnesses, exchanging details where possible, taking photos of the damage and filing a police report as soon as possible.

While some countries offer insurance discounts for drivers who own a dash cam, Australian insurance companies have not yet caught on to the trend, so while it may save you money on excess at claim time, it doesn’t save anything on insurance premiums.

Dash cams will also come in handy if you’ve got a young driver starting off behind the wheel, and you’re worried about how disciplined they’ll be when you’re not in the passenger seat, this is a good way to let your teen roam-free while still keeping a close eye on their driving behaviour.