August 30, 2013

The latest must-have gadget for motor people everywhere is a dashcam. That’s right, a dashcam. Oh, for god’s sake: it’s a dashboard-mounted video camera capable of recording high-quality digital footage of whatever happens to be in front of the vehicle to which is it fitted (e.g. majestic rural landscapes and decent honest folk going about their daily lives if you live in Yorkshire, blustery sea views and grim-faced holidaymakers if you live on the English River Area and are therefore retired, dimly-lit images of dogging, dog fights, fist fights and so on if you live in Essex. Oh, and RTAs, of course, pretty much everywhere).

Trend-setters like lorry drivers and the police all have them already, obvs. But now the craze is spreading like wildfire with motorists the length and breadth of Britain hoovering up digital footage of their crazy in-car adventures and then just as quickly discarding it. Unless, of course, said footage happens to include a C4C fraudster slamming on the brakes in front of you, some idiot overtaking recklessly in the opposite lane, or (as apparently happens all the time in places like Coventry) some naked bird prancing about on a horse, for example.

With the UK’s citizen surveillance system still riddled with worrisome gaps, this latest contribution to the monitoring of everything everywhere all the time is, of course welcome. Any road users objecting to have their front-of-car behaviour captured and recorded may be reassured by reflecting a) that if they are not doing anything wrong (or embarrassing or whatever) they have nothing to fear and b) that modern science has conclusively proved that cameras cannot in fact steal your soul (not in any literal sense, at least).

Thanks to dash cams, ordinary citizens who pass damning footage on to the authorities can now see those who bother them on Britain’s roads borne down upon by the full weight of the law. Middle England’s voice of common sense the Daily Mail reported this week that one motorist was disqualified for 12 months thanks to dashcam footage supplied by a member of the public (via a private firm called Police Witness) that showed him attempting a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre. Several others have reported have been given penalty points and fines after footage of their bad driving was sent to police.

Some insurers have welcomed the coming of dashcam by offering premium discounts (typically of around 10-15%) to anyone who’s gone to the bother of fitting one. As with the black box recorders so popular with today’s premium-challenged young drivers, dashcam take-up will soon reach the point where reluctance to have one fitted could be construed as a damning indictment of a person’s readiness to have their on-road behaviour subjected to scrutiny, on the “something to hide” principle.

The next step, logically, will be to fit two-way dash cams that will benefit responsible road users by confirming that they are not talking on their mobiles, eating sandwiches, doing their make-up, picking their noses, taking frequent sips from a selection of miniature spirits bottles, being pleasured by a passenger etc whilst at the wheel.

In places like Russia (where the rule of law remains patchy, arbitrary, venal and sporadically draconian), virtually everyone now has a dashcam (see previous story), common sense and the demand for entertaining scenes of motor vehicle mayhem on YouTube categorically require that we should all follow suit and fit a dashcam without delay.

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