A dashboard camera – or dash cam – can be extremely useful, especially if you’re involved in an accident and need to show your insurer or the police exactly what happened.
They’re also extremely popular with fleets, as they can be used to monitor company drivers’ behaviour, and also be set up to send immediate footage of an accident or near miss to a fleet manager’s office via 3G.
On the one hand, a dash cam might seem a bit ‘Big Brother’, but on the other it’s a very useful way of avoiding insurance arguments, and improving road safety.
Here’s our full breakdown of how the law stands around the use of dash cams.
Are dash cameras legal?
Put simply, yes. Having a dash cam in your car is no different to having a CCTV system outside your house in the eyes of the law. It exists to record footage around the car rather than film somebody or something specifically, so it isn’t in breach of any privacy laws.
However, there are some caveats. First of all, dash cams aren’t legal in all countries. If you’re taking your car abroad, check first, as otherwise you may find yourself in hot water. Their use is restricted in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, for example, and they’re completely illegal in Portugal and Luxembourg.
Dash camera laws
Whilst operating a dashboard camera is perfectly legal, there are some other laws you need to be aware of. If you’re carrying passengers, then technically you must inform them that a camera is in operation inside your vehicle. This isn’t so much of an issue for private drivers, but for those driving passengers for reward, such as taxi drivers and coach drivers, the requirement is very specific, and if the passenger or passengers ask for the device to be switched off, it must be. Similarly, driving instructors like to use them for both recording and instructional purposes – this is fine, but the learner driver must be aware that the camera is in use and consent to it.
Also, while its legal to have a dash camera in your vehicle, the law is very specific about operating its controls. You can only touch the device or operate its controls while the vehicle is parked and stationary, but please note that this doesn’t relate to red traffic lights. It’s an instant £100 fine and three points.
Can dash cam footage be used in court?
Yes, dash cam footage is admissible in court. Indeed, in North Wales, police have already announced Operation SNAP, which allows the public to put forward video evidence captured by dash cams and cyclist helmet cameras.
The footage can be used as evidence of reckless or dangerous driving, as well as to prove innocence or guilt in road traffic accidents.
However, while most people buy dash cams to protect themselves, they can also lead to the dash cam owner being prosecuted – incriminating evidence is very much a two-way street. The police have a right to demand the dashcam footage from a driver they have pulled over, and the GPS used to prove such things as speed and traffic infringements.
Prosecutions have also been successful using dahs cam footage for road rage incidents, hit and runs and car jackings. In many cases where a serious incident takes place, the dash cams if those involved are the first things the police will look at.
How much does a dash cam cost?
The simplest dash cams, which record footage that you can then download onto your computer, are available from as little as £25, but the quality and functionality at this level is variable. Good mid-range examples are £80- £130 and include features such as 3G and Bluetooth functionality, which can instantly transfer footage of incidents and near misses directly to your phone, tablet or laptop.
Are dash cams worth it?
Already, there are over three million dash cams in use in the UK, with a report from the RAC recently showing that as many as half of all British drivers are considering installing one. They certainly help you avoid doubt in insurance situations, as well as help protect you in potentially dangerous situations such as road rage attacks. Want to know more about the pros and cons? Find all you need to know in our guide.