Police have been using dash cams for decades to record evidence
at traffic stops, and now the technology is catching on among
If you've been unfairly accused of causing a wreck or you have a
newly licensed teen driver at home, then you can probably
The dashboard-mounted cameras record the sights and sounds while
the car is driven, providing footage to document what happens on
the road or in the car. While no company yet offers an
for adults who have installed a camera, at least one sees the value
in monitoring new drivers.
The dash cams join a widening array of technology -- such as the
onboard data recorders
installed in all new cars and the
that bring discounts to cautious drivers -- that can document your
The biggest reason for sales growth: plummeting prices.
Catch it on video for $100
Marc Horowitz, spokesperson for
in New York, which sells security and surveillance products, says
online search traffic for dash cams as well as sales of the
company's products has doubled so far this year over the same
period of 2011.
The technology became available on the consumer market about 10
years ago, Horowitz says, but at that time a decent dash cam
retailed for thousands of dollars. Now you can get a basic model
for under $100.
Twice that amount can get you something as fancy as BrickHouse's
dual-camera model that records high-definition video even in total
darkness. One camera faces forward to record what's happening on
the road, and a rear-facing camera records what's happening inside
the car. A G-force sensor automatically saves files in case of an
accident. For another 100 bucks, you can get a dash cam with GPS,
which logs data for review on a PC.
Horowitz says buyers generally fall into two categories:
"No. 1 is someone worried about a teen driver," he says. Parents
are buying them as a condition for letting a teen have access to a
car. Want to know whether your teen is texting behind the wheel?
Dash cam footage provides irrefutable answers. (See "A parent's
guide to insuring a teen driver.")
The second category is made up of drivers who saw their car
insurance rates go up or were stuck paying their collision
deductibles for accidents they didn't cause. Dash-cam video footage
can provide sweet satisfaction in his-word-against-mine cases.
Evidence against scammers and idiots
A slew of dash-cam video clips are posted on YouTube, including
a clip that purports to show a scammer running into the road, and
then faking getting hit by a car that's already pulled to a
Frank Scafidi, spokesperson for the National Insurance Crime
Bureau, says he's unaware of dash-cam video footage being used to
prove any fraud cases referred to the bureau for investigation. But
the technology has potential to fight fraud, he says.
"Video is an awesome piece of evidence," he says. "In a perfect
world, could a video help thwart auto theft or fraud?
He says truckers are using them because they say they're often
unfairly blamed for accidents. (See "Spying on truckers' every
"I think you'll see insurance companies warming up to the idea
of giving customers discounts for using the technology," he
Tune in to your teen driver
American Family Insurance's Teen Safe Driver Program provides
free use of a dash cam for one year, along with education and
professional coaching to help licensed teens become better
The camera records sights and sounds inside and outside the
vehicle when triggered by erratic movement, such as swerving, hard
braking and sudden acceleration. The images and sounds are sent
wirelessly to a center where professional driving coaches review
the footage. Parents then can log in and review a weekly report
card featuring the video footage and an assessment of their teens'
driving, including comparison to other teen drivers.
The results do not affect car insurance rates or policies;
American Family says it never sees the results (unless a parent
gives the insurance company permission in a special instance, such
as to prove another driver's fault in an accident).
More than 11,000 families have taken part in the program since
the insurer began offering it in 2007, American Family spokesperson
Janet Masters says. The company offers a 10 percent participation
discount in Colorado and Minnesota.
"We've seen immediate and impressive results, including a
reduction in risky driving behaviors by about 50 percent
immediately and 70 percent within the first five weeks," Masters
Dash cams aren't just about revealing what teens are doing
wrong. The footage can also show what they're doing right. Masters
says one family used the dash-cam footage to prove their teen
driver did not cause an accident.