I was recently perusing r/IdiotsInCars when I stumbled upon a seemingly ordinary dash cam video of a seemingly standard car crash. The alleged “idiot,” in this case, recklessly merges in front of a driver with the dash cam installed, who proceeds to crash directly into the side of the merging car, flipping them over in the process.
Similar videos (and crashes) are posted to this subreddit every single day, which might explain why the comments underneath this recording — which is practically humdrum compared to some of the videos you’ll find — are absolutely filled with pro-dash cam arguments. “Everytime I see a new post on here I just think f*** me I need a dashcam people are stupid,” commenter milodesink writes, to which fellow internet browser grizspice replies, “I just bought one specifically because of the posts in this sub.”
In the same thread, commenter HarlowKitty recounts their own harrowing car crash, which apparently motivated them to install a dash cam in their vehicle:
“I was driving and out of nowhere someone was driving the wrong way down the road and I swerved to miss them and I ended up clipping the person next to me. I was deemed at fault because I couldn’t prove anything. Nor did I have any info on that car because they never stopped. After that night, I bought my dashcam. I want proof of dumb s*** next time.”
Now, pretty much everything I know about dash cams comes from watching the massive collection of bizarre Russian dash cam videos on YouTube (which are notorious enough to have been made into a documentary). Russians are especially fond of dash cams for several reasons, including the fact that Russian law enforcement is riddled with corruption, which means having video evidence of what actually happened, rather than whatever the police or anyone else involved says happened, might end up saving you in a pinch.
This lackadaisical attitude that Russian police have has also allowed for insurance scams to take over Russian roadways. For instance, in Russia, pedestrians might purposefully run in front of your car (see the below video for proof of this phenomenon), or other drivers might merge in front of you only to slam on their breaks in the hopes that you rear-end them. In these sketchy situations, having a dash cam to prove that they were actually at fault can be a lifesaver.
In an article for Jalopnik, Marina Galperina also explains that many Russian roads are either under-maintained or rendered undriveable by dangerous weather conditions, forcing drivers to install dash cams if they expect to get compensated for driving into, say, a massive pothole. “The conditions of Russian roads are perilous, with an insane gridlock in the city and gigantic ditches, endless swamps and severe wintry emptiness of the backroads and highways,” she writes.
All of which makes dash cams even more of a necessity, apparently even more so than pants: “You can get into your car without your pants on, but never get into a car without a dash cam,” Russian motorists’ rights activist Aleksei Dozorov told Radio Free Europe back in 2012.
But what about here in America — should more drivers install dash cams to protect themselves from being blamed for accidents they didn’t actually cause? James Moore, director of the USC Transportation Engineering Program, says that drivers might as well buy one to be better safe than sorry. “Dash cams are an excellent tool for providing both law enforcement and insurance companies with a fuller situational context for otherwise uncertain events,” he explains. “We can expect to see more in the way of insurance companies offering discounts to drivers who are willing to accept telemetry of multiple sorts in their vehicles to document driving practices and improve risk assessment, dash cams included.”
Speaking of insurance discounts, some car insurance providers in England offer 10 to 15 percent discounts to customers with dash cams installed in their vehicles. Unfortunately, though, American insurance providers have yet to do the same (but fingers crossed that they will soon).
Meanwhile, Josh Mendoza, an instructor at the Melrose Driving School, says that dash cams are more of a safeguard than a necessity. “It kinda depends, in my opinion, on the area that you drive around in,” he explains. “If you know that you’re in an area where there’s usually a crash every day or every week, or maybe if the driver’s not that great of a driver and they get really nervous when they drive, having a camera [can be an extra precaution]. So I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, I just don’t feel like it’s a necessity.”
Former Uber driver Evan Williams agrees that you might as well buy one. “I never had any issues, thank God, with customers and/or accidents, but other drivers always told me that it’s a great way to protect yourself,” he says. “The only reason I never used one four years ago was because those things were really expensive, and I was just a newly graduated college student.”
But nowadays, you can get yourself a dash cam for only $16.59 from your local department store! Sure, it might not record movie-tier audiovisuals, but it’ll get the job done if you happen to get into a crash (or if someone tries to bag insurance money by running headfirst into your car).
So yeah, maybe consider buying yourself a dash cam. Even if it doesn’t save you from paying for a crash that wasn’t your fault, you can make a compilation of the footage and go after some of that sweet, sweet YouTube money.