Video camera on car windshield - is a dashcam right for you?

On The Road

Dash Cams – Are they Worth the Investment?

No matter how experienced you are, driving safely is a serious task that should not be taken lightly. Whether you’re commuting to work, dropping the kids off at school or going on a road-trip vacation, not only do you have to concentrate on your own driving, but you need to anticipate the moves of those around you. Thankfully as automobile technology continues to evolve, new tools are being developed to help keep us safer on the roadways.

Dash cams are considered by many to be gaining popularity among drivers as a way to record activity on the road for later use. But do they offer benefits for everyone? I spoke with Kevin McConkey, a Director in the Claims Department of Allstate Canada, to learn more about dash cams, and what he thinks of them. Not only has Kevin worked in Claims for 30 years, he also represents Allstate on a cross-industry, anti-fraud initiative known as CANATICS, making him an auto claim expert.

What is a dash cam?

“A dash cam is exactly what it sounds like,” says Kevin smiling, “a camera that you install on the dashboard or windshield of your vehicle.” Costing anywhere from $60 to $200 they can be powered by the 12-volt wiring in your car or by batteries. They are programmed to turn on when you start your car and will record everything you see as a driver on a memory card, similar to what you use in a digital camera. The footage is recorded on a loop, with the capability of saving or protecting parts of the video if you wish.

“I think they are a great way to ensure peace of mind. Who doesn’t want to feel more at ease when they’re out on the road?”

What are the benefits of having one?

Kevin feels dash cams can be a cost effective way to get peace of mind.  “Dash cams can be used as both a protection mechanism and a learning tool,” he says. Kevin explains that in the aftermath of a collision, things can often turn into a he-said, she-said situation. However, if one of the vehicles is equipped with a dash cam, you should be able to obtain footage that will shed light on what actually occurred. Similarly, they are especially useful in situations where a staged accident has taken place. You also have the option of leaving your dash cam running while your car is turned off and parked. “This can be useful in the chance your vehicle is involved in a parking accident and you aren’t around to witness what happened.”

Kevin also highly recommends dash cams for parents of new drivers. “I use it as a coaching tool with my own kids. I’m not always able to be in the car with them when they are driving, so if they are ever involved in a collision or a situation where mistakes are made, we can go over the footage together after and use it as a learning opportunity.”

What are the downsides?

Having a dash cam in each of his vehicles, Kevin has a hard time thinking of any downsides associated with this device. “I think they are a great way to ensure peace of mind. Who doesn’t want to feel more at ease when they’re out on the road?  That said, I know some people may think they have that ‘Big Brother’ feel, however no one is tracking your device and you can erase your footage at any point.”

car video recorder

Are there any legal implications regarding dash cams?

Given that this technology is fairly new, drivers should consider several factors if they are undecided about installing one of these devices. For example, could they be a deemed to be a cause of distracted driving? Do they obstruct your vision? And do they infringe on the privacy of others?

What I learned is that the screens on most dash cams go black within 3-5 minutes of being turned on. Drivers have the option of changing the settings on the dash cam to have the screen go black sooner to minimize the risk of distraction (which Kevin strongly suggests all drivers do). When it comes to the placement of your dash cam, he recommends installing it behind your rear-view mirror or mounting it directly in the middle of your dashboard. These spots allow for optimal driver visibility and roadway camera coverage. Keep your personal preferences in mind – if you find that the presence of a dash cam is at all distracting, consider safer alternatives, including uninstallation.

Privacy issues may or may not arise, depending on what you choose to do with recorded dash cam footage. If you are involved in an accident and there are insurance claims that arise afterwards, the involved insurance companies, their lawyers, and potentially the police, may ask for access to the footage. If you decide to post something from your dash cam to YouTube, or any other social channel, the privacy of others could become an issue if they believe that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time the dash cam footage was recorded.

Could a dash cam help me with my insurance claim?

This is the number one question people ask when thinking of purchasing a dash cam,” says Kevin. “Though the footage could be taken into consideration when filing a claim, especially if there is a dispute, the claim is still subject to the rigors that any other pieces of evidence undergo. You are also not currently entitled to a discount on your insurance for installing a dash cam.”

Extra benefits?

Sure, the prime objective of a dash cam is to protect you, your passengers, and potentially other drivers, but they can also be used for personal reasons. Headed out on a road trip? Dash cams are a great way to document your journey. Unexpected moments where you wish you’d had a camera handy? Now you do! Dash cams have been known to capture incredible footage of meteor showers and wildlife.  You never know what you’ll capture while you’re out and about.

Chatting with Kevin about benefits of having a dash cam has me seriously considering my options.

Do you have a dash cam in your car? Would you consider purchasing one? Let us know in the comments below.