• Installing a dash cam could help you keep your no claim discount
  • 52% of drivers say they would feel safer with a dash cam
  • But dash cams should only be used as a back-up to safe driving

You may well have heard all about dash cams already. Perhaps you have one installed in your car, maybe a friend has evangelised about the benefits or you've simply watched online videos showing the motoring mishaps and near misses caught by dash cams.

But what started out as a bulky camcorder, chiefly used by traffic police when dealing with high-speed pursuits, is now a discreet piece of consumer tech that has helped many a motorist submit vital evidence to police and argue their case in court – it has even helped some keep the no claim discount on their car insurance.”

Also, the rise in 'crash for cash' scams, where criminals deliberately cause an accident to falsely claim on insurance, has seen many drivers resort to dash cam technology in order to protect themselves and any no claim bonuses they’ve earned. In fact, Halfords found that 52% of drivers feel safer when they have a dash cam in their car.

But does that mean you need to rush out and buy one? Like everything, there are two sides to the story. Leon Poultney (@Blokesincars) talks to the experts to find out if dash cams are all they’re cracked up to be.

Can installing a dash cam help with car insurance?

‘Installing a dash cam can definitely be of benefit for customers at the point of an accident claim, or for evidence where someone has driven into our customer’s vehicle and then driven off,’ says Michelle Smith, senior motor underwriter at LV=.

‘If we have the registration number of the vehicle, we can then look to trace the offender and make a claim from the third party, potentially meaning that our policy holder won’t lose their no claim discount,’ she adds.

On top of this, several police forces in the UK have revealed that dash cam footage of dangerous driving has helped bring numerous culprits to justice.

North Wales Police, for example, pioneered a process called Operation Snap in August of this year, which encouraged members of the public to upload video and photographic evidence relating to driving offences they’d seen to a bespoke web form.

Culprits are apparently offered driver awareness training, or given fines and possible court action, but some independent institutes, such as the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), have called for consistent national guidelines on the standard of dash cam footage required for prosecutions and how drivers can submit such evidence.

Protecting parked cars and proper placement

Apart from being a guardian angel on the road, many current dash cams also act as a security device when a vehicle is parked, systematically recording and storing images and short video clips that act as a sort of CCTV for your car. So, for instance, if your car gets clipped, you will have it on video.

However, the use of dash cams does come with some very strong warnings from the police, chiefly surrounding the placement of the device. 

Drivers are encouraged to check whether the mounting of a dash cam or similar device complies with the law in respect of any obscured view through the windshield.

But dash cams do have their disadvantages

‘As great as dash cams can be, they also come with a number of downsides,’ explains Nick Francis (@Nick_TheSun), motoring editor at The Sun on Sunday. ‘They tend to offer a very one-sided view of an accident and don't provide the sort of multi-angle evidence that is provided by human witnesses.

‘On top of this, drivers looking to get a few Facebook 'likes' could find their case is thrown out of court should they decide to upload any video or photographic evidence before the police have dealt with it.’

Dash cams should be a back-up to safer driving

But in a more damning review, IAM has warned that police actions like Operation Snap could lead to fewer visible traffic patrols, as officers spend more time analysing amateur footage.

In a recent press release, Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart (@IAMRoadSmart) director of policy and research, said: ‘Our main concern is that dash cams must not become a replacement for a fully trained officer undertaking high-profile roads policing.

‘A dash cam isn’t the be-all and end-all. People need to realise they must improve their own standards of driving as well as expecting others to do the same,’ he adds.

‘We at IAM RoadSmart are very concerned that drivers might be investing in a dash cam as a substitute for better driving, instead of using it as a back-up’.

When used as a back-up to safe and responsible driving, a dash cam can be a very powerful tool – helping to lower car insurance premiums in some cases, potentially thwarting scam artists and providing essential evidence to aid police investigations. But as with much of today’s technology, it must be used appropriately and as an assistant to safe driving, rather than a replacement for common sense.