By Ali Oswald
Dash cams may not be as popular in the U.S. as in Russia, where footage from them has produced many popular YouTube videos, but they do have a number of practical benefits for drivers.
Dash cams can give drivers additional "peace of mind," said Johan-Till Broer, Garmin public relations manager, if a crash happens. Having a recording of an incident can help protect against insurance fraud. Some dash cams have impact sensors that save footage for 3 to 5 minutes before and after a collision, said Chris Kooistra, Cobra Electronics' director of marketing. Both companies sell mainstream dash cams.
The device can be an education tool for drivers, too. Parents can review footage with their teen drivers to point out bad habits that need to be fixed and reinforce good ones, said Carinsurance.com Managing Editor Michelle Megna.
Despite their benefits, many insurance companies do not offer incentives for dash cam use. "When we provide a discount it is based on something that we believe will lower our claims costs, such as a customer's driving history that indicates he or she is a safe driver," said State Farm spokeswoman Holly Anderson. "While a dash cam may provide information about why a crash occurred, it is not a device that is designed to inhibit the crash from happening in the first place."
There is a long lag time when it comes to technology and car insurance, Megna said. It's possible that insurance companies will consider adding incentives in the future if dash cam footage helps settle disputes quickly.
If you're going to use a dash cam, however, you should become familiar with your local laws. Each state has regulations regarding obstruction of view and recording without consent.
Still, the popularity of dash cams is growing, and reasonable prices — some cost as little as $60 — make it possible for many drivers to buy one. "We are just starting to see the beginning of [dash cam use]," Kooistra said.