Dash cameras, or cams, are no longer just for police officers or the Russians (for those of you not familiar with the Russian dash cams, I would recommend searching it on YouTube). In a world of “your word against mine”, many drivers are turning to dash cams for support in insurance claims, legal issues, and even as a security measure.

What Should You Look For in a Dash Cam?

Price.
Pricing can range from as low as $40 to as high as $250 or more (depending on the available features). Be sure to compare prices as they can vary whether you decide to purchase the camera in a truck stop, an electronics store, or online. 

Brand.
Several companies now make dash cams including Garmin, GoPro, and Blackvue. Each brand offers something slightly different, so be sure to understand which features are important to you.

Camera Mounts.
Many models are small enough to be mounted on your windshield via suction cup or clamp. Some drivers mount them facing forward from the back of their cab. Be sure that the camera does not obstruct your vision after it is mounted.

Accelerometers.
Some of the higher-end versions include accelerometers that detect when the truck rapidly accelerates or brakes.

Time & Location Tracking.
Some dash cams include a time and date stamp, and even geo tags that sync with GPS in order show where footage was taken. 

Microphone.
You might want to consider models that include a microphone. This feature allows you to capture anything said in the cab, which could be useful especially if you are training.

Automatic Looping.
One feature that some dash cams have is automatic looping, which can begin to loop after a few minutes or a full 24-hours or more depending on the memory.

Type of Memory Card.
Most models require some sort of memory card, whether it is a typical SD card or a built-in memory card. You will want to know what type of card you need before you purchase your dash cam. 

Another thing to consider is if the camera runs on its own, or if it must be activated in order to have the footage saved. Make sure that you are saving everything before the memory card is full, or you may lose footage before you can use it.

There are several reviews about the different types of dash cams online. I would encourage you to research which camera meets your needs before you purchase one for your truck or personal vehicle. 

Legal Issues Surrounding Dash Cams

Keep in mind that anything that is recorded on a dash cam can be used to either help or hurt you. Many states and cities have requirements in which anyone being recorded must be alerted that they are being recorded, or you could face criminal charges for “wire-tapping”. It is a good practice to alert any law enforcement official that they are being recorded if you are pulled over or inspected. You do have the right in most states and cities to take a video of things that occur in public places, as privacy is not expected. However you could run into potential issues if you are on private property, whether you’re aware of it or not.

You may be requested to show your footage to a law enforcement officer, but you are not required to do so unless it falls under what are known as “exigent circumstances”. Under these circumstances, an officer can seize your equipment in order to prevent it from being lost or destroyed if they believe that your recording might contain evidence of a crime. The officer cannot search, view, or copy the footage without legal consent or legal authority such as a subpoena or search warrant. Under no circumstances may anyone delete your recordings, nor order you or a third party to do so. 

Be sure to consult a lawyer for more information about your rights.

Dash cams are great tools to use to protect yourself in a “your word against mine” situation, but this can go both ways. Remember, if you are at fault the video will show that as well. The majority of drivers are protected by their cameras, but the legal side is an important thing to consider. If you are driving safely your camera should be your best friend in any dispute.

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Drew Kernosky, Business Consultant

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