A Smart Witness: How Vehicle Accident Cameras are Catching Dangerous Drivers and Fraudsters
Date posted: 8 March 2016
Technology has been changing the way we drive since the invention of the combustion engine. From better braking systems to airbag technology a lot of technological advancements in the last few decades have been about keeping us safe.
In-car cameras fall into this long line of technological innovations that are making the roads safer for drivers. In this article I want to explore how dashboard cameras are preventing fraud, helping people lower their insurance premiums and may even be deterring dangerous driving.
But before all that let me explain exactly what a vehicle accident camera is and how it works.
What are Vehicle Accident Cameras?
Vehicle cameras or ‘dash cams’ such as those manufactured by Smart Witness are small portable devices that are fixed to the dashboard of your car in a forward facing position. The camera will then record footage as you drive around, storing it on a portable or built-in solid-state storage drive and capturing any road traffic incidents on film allowing you to play them back later.
The setup and functionality of vehicle accident cameras vary but generally, they are wired up to the car’s battery so that they only begin recording when the ignition is started. For this reason, many don’t have an on or off switch either and will overwrite old footage when the storage has filled up, meaning you never have to replace or take out the storage unless you want to access the footage.
Playback quality varies from device to device but many modern dash cams like the SmartWitness SVC1080 come with full HD playback and have a monitor for live viewing. Others like the SmartWitness KP1 allow 3G transmission for live tracking and driver alerts on your smartphone.
There are also more advanced systems on the market. One such system is the Videmus multi-camera solution, which offers 360° coverage through a series of up to 16 integrated onboard cameras.
But exactly how can fitting a vehicle camera onto your dashboard make a difference?
Cash for Crash Fraud
There is no doubt that dashboard cameras have now begun to really take off with the general public. A recent survey found that sales were up a staggering tenfold in 2015 and this trend looks set to continue in 2016.
Perhaps the single most important development fuelling this trend amongst drivers is the insurance industry’s willingness to get on board with the technology to tackle so-called ‘cash for crash’ fraud. This is a form of car insurance fraud in which a driver stages an accident and then fraudulently claims for damages and personal injuries.
In one recent high-profile case, three individuals in a lorry were caught out by a dashboard camera when they tried to claim £54,000 for personal injuries when there was no damage to the lorry and only minor damage to the car that went into the back of it.
Cash for crash fraud is a big problem for the insurance industry and costs it over £1bn per year. It is one of the reasons that the UK’s 29 leading car insurers recently revealed that they would now accept video footage from dashboard-mounted cameras as evidence in the event of a claim. Not only does the footage help insurance companies quickly identify fraudulent claims but video footage makes for a far more reliable witness than a human being, allowing insurance providers to cut down on other costs associated with claims such as collecting and corroborating witness statements.
Driver Benefits of In-Vehicle Cameras
The ability for insurers to access dashboard camera footage is having massive benefits for drivers as well. Some insurance companies like Swiftcover are offering discounts of between 10% – 12.5% for drivers using vehicle accident cameras, which would save them an average of £54 per policy. The devices are proving extremely popular with younger drivers whose premiums are usually very high.
The financial benefits could be far greater than savings on insurance premiums though. Many drivers involved in disputed claims where blame cannot be established will end up losing their no claims discount, which can result in hundreds of pounds of lost savings. Dashboard camera footage can help insurance companies unequivocally appropriate blame in many of these disputed cases, allowing safe drivers the peace of mind that their no claims bonus can be protected no matter how duplicitous a potential claimant.
With some vehicle cameras having the ability to transmit data using 3G straight to your smartphone, there is also the potential for these devices to act as deterrents to would-be car thieves. There is, of course, the argument that displaying these devices in a parked vehicle could make it more of a target, but as 3G functionality becomes more commonplace, they could soon become more of a deterrent than a temptation.
Creating Safer Roads
Perhaps one of the most important effects the popularity of dashboard-mounted vehicle cameras could have is on dangerous driver behaviour. With so much footage of criminally dangerous driving from cyclist’s helmet cameras hitting the news in recent months and years, many cyclists are now seeing these small devices as a vital evidence gathering device in the case of a road traffic incident. We could soon witness the same approach being adopted by more and more drivers.
Despite falling numbers, 1,807 people were killed on UK roads in 2014. Whilst dashboard mounted vehicle accident cameras won’t eliminate dangerous driving and car fraud entirely, the could help create a culture of doubt amongst such people, causing them to think twice. And if that makes the roads even slightly safer for the majority of safe drivers who use them, then that’s a very good thing indeed.