Dash cameras, or cams, are no longer for police or the Russians (for those of you not familiar with the Russian dash cams, I would point you to YouTube). In a world of “your word against mine”, many drivers are turning to dash cams for support in insurance claims, legal issues, and even as a security measure. There are many models of dash cams available, with a variety of features, and an even larger variety of prices. Several companies now make dash cams including Garmin, GoPro, and Blackvue. You can even purchase them in truck stops, your local electronic store, or online as well. Dash cams have steadily come down in price over the last decade and can range from as low as $40 to as high as $250 or more. The price will depend on the features that the camera has.
What Should You Look For in a Dash Cam?
First and foremost, you want to make sure that you adhere to any State or Department of Transportation codes about obstructing your vision while driving. Many models are small enough to be mounted on your windshield via suction cup or clamp. Some drivers even go as far as mounting them facing forward from the back of their cab. One feature that some dash cams include are automatic looping. Some have a loop that only lasts a few minutes or you could have a full 24-hour loop or more, depending on the memory.
Another feature found in some of the higher-end dash cams is accelerometers that detect when the truck rapidly accelerates or brakes. The higher-end models will typically have a time and date stamp or even include geo tags that sync with GPS in order show where the footage was taken. You may even consider models that have a microphone. This feature allows you to capture anything that is said in the truck, which could be useful, especially if you are training. Most models require some sort of memory card whether it is just a typical SD card or if it has a built-in memory card. You will want to know what type of card you need before you purchase your dash cam.
Another thing to consider is if the camera runs on its own, or if it must be activated in order to have the footage saved. Make sure that you are saving your footage before the memory card is full or you may lose footage before you can use it.
There are several reviews and lists of the best dash cams online. I would encourage you to research what camera meets your needs before you purchase one for your truck or personal vehicle.
Legal Issues Surrounding Dash Cams
I am not a lawyer, but keep in mind that anything that you say can be used to either help or hurt you. Many states and cities have requirements in which anyone being recorded must be alerted that they are being recorded or you could face criminal charges for “wire-tapping”. It is a good practice to alert any law enforcement official that they are being recorded if you are pulled over or inspected.
You do have a right in most states and cities to take video of things that happen in public, as privacy is not expected, however you could potentially run into issues if you are on private property. You may be requested to show your footage to a law enforcement officer, however you are not required to do so unless it falls under what are known as “exigent circumstances”. These circumstances would be when an officer believes that your recording might contain evidence of a crime and seizes your equipment in order to prevent it from being lost or destroyed. The officer cannot search, view, and copy the footage without legal consent or legal authority such as a subpoena or search warrant. Remember under no circumstances may anyone delete those recordings or order you or a third party to do so.
If you would like more information on your rights I would strongly recommend you talk to a lawyer.
Dash cams are great tools to use to protect yourself from liability in a “your word against mine” situation, but remember this can be a double-edged sword. If you are at fault the video will show what happened. The vast majority of drivers are protected by their cameras. If you are driving safely, your camera could be your best friend in any traffic or safety dispute.