Dash cam and drive recording technology enables fleets and regular motorists to prove liability in the event of an accident, helping to protect innocent drivers. But law enforcement departments are also increasingly keen to use footage to help prosecute law-breakers. For resource-strapped law enforcement agencies, the footage recorded by the increasing number of dash cams in operation provides an invaluable source of high-quality evidence. However, by submitting dash cam footage to the police, are we driving ourselves further towards a surveillance society? Or do the potential benefits in road safety outweigh such concerns?
It’s hard to argue against the benefits of a dash cam or drive recorder. Vehicles are expensive, roads continue to get busier and accidents do inevitably happen. When they do, it’s great to be able to prove how events unfolded, and resolve issues as smoothly as possible. But drive around for long enough and your drive recorder is also likely to capture plenty of bad, or even illegal driving from other motorists. Even if it didn’t lead to an accident, and whether or not you were directly involved, you might still want to do something with the footage.
For many, the temptation is to upload it to social media and let society become the critic, but think twice. In some countries it’s illegal to share or publish dash cam recordings, while in the European Union doing so is likely to fall foul of data protection laws. If you want to ensure that rule-breaking is investigated, and that irresponsible and reckless drivers are held to account, it’s best to contact the police.
On the Right Side of the Law
The police can’t be everywhere, but CCTV and in-vehicle cameras provide them with thousands more eyes on our streets. While police attitudes — and the law — vary worldwide, many law enforcement agencies see footage from citizen cameras as an important tool when investigating and prosecuting crime. Today, CCTV gathering is a routine part of police investigative work, and many forces now actively encourage users to submit footage from their dash cams too.
The UK is an interesting case in point. Individual UK police forces have been accepting dash cam footage with zeal. Sussex Police introduced Operation Crackdown as far back as 2013. In London, the Metropolitan Police launched an online portal at the end of October 2016. According to reports, the Met receive more than 7,000 recordings each year, with submitted evidence going on to support more than 300 prosecutions per month.
In recent years it has become easier still to submit footage to the authorities. In England and Wales, drivers can now send videos to almost any police force through the National Dash Cam Safety Portal. Other more novel approaches include Comroads, an app that aims to crowd-source footage to provide multiple viewpoints of an incident. While the app isn’t affiliated with any police forces, the idea certainly appeals to many motorists who feel that footage should be shared for the greater good.
Safer Roads, at What Cost?
Inevitably, the spread of dash cams and the new ways in which we use their footage raises wider questions about the sort of society we want to live in. Many citizens across the world can already expect to be filmed as they work, shop or travel, and some will see dash cams as a step too far towards what many fear is becoming a surveillance state. In the case of dash cams and drive recorders, it seems that in most case efforts are being made to ensure people’s rights are being respected.
What’s certainly true is that the popularity of dash cams means more vehicles now routinely film members of the public. This is inevitable, yet the law varies globally. In Europe, CCTV operators are bound by strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules, obliging them to act proportionately and transparently when gathering data. In theory, GDPR applies to individuals and their dash cams, but in practice few private drivers take measures to ensure compliance.
Some countries have reacted swiftly to privacy concerns by banning dash cams outright. For example, they’re illegal to use in Austria, Luxembourg and Portugal. In France, recordings may only be shared with the police, and only then after informing the other people involved. Clearly, countries like the UK are taking a different path, endorsing the view that creating safer roads is the main priority.
A Cautious Welcome
For most of us, the potential benefits of a dash cam outweigh concerns about surveillance and privacy rights. As more drivers install cameras, their footage will help police catch and punish rule-breaking motorists. In time, it’s likely that bad drivers will act more carefully when behind the wheel, and the worst may be removed from the roads entirely, making them safer for us all.
VIA recently launched the VIA Mobile360 D700 Drive Recorder, a full-featured, compact dual camera 1080p driver recorder that is available with custom software support and seamless CAN bus and cloud integration. The unobtrusive and compact design includes GPS support with live tracking using a customizable app, a 3-axis G-sensor and four infra-red LEDs that ensure a clear video stream of the vehicle’s interior at all times. In short, the VIA Mobile360 D700 Drive Recorder is highly suited for personal and commercial use to protect drivers and other road users when things go wrong.
Learn more about the VIA Mobile360 D700 Drive Recorder here.
You can also watch this short video below:
Note: This article is part of a series of pieces about smart transportation trends that we have recently published on the VIA website. The content has been amended in places.