Call for dashcams to be made mandatory - but should they be?

Out of all the new technologies emerging for us to use in our cars, dashcams are proving to be one of the most useful gadgets.

With the ability to capture whatever happens when out on the road, these devices are quickly becoming important tools to help drivers, cops, and other parties to improve road safety.

This trend has lead to campaigns being launched by automotive companies to make dashcams mandatory in all cars despite there being concerns about privacy and distraction to drivers. So will we soon see dashcams in every car on the road?

Dashcam in the windscreen of a car
It's estimated that 1 in 5 drivers have a dashcam installed in their car. Source: Getty Images

Providing essential evidence

What makes dashcams stand out compared to other in-car devices is that they are designed to provide the one thing missing in many accident reports: irrefutable evidence about what happened.

Acting much like a black box recorder in planes, dashcams capture everything that unfolds during an accident whether it involves cars, cyclists, or pedestrians.

Dashcams are entirely legal in Australia provided they only face into the road and more and more drivers are installing them to ensure they have a safety net when involved in an accident.

It’s not surprising then to see that a 2019 survey by Allianz showed that around one in five drivers now use these in their cars making them one of the most common gadgets used in cars today.

The growth in popularity has been backed by automotive companies such as car rental comparison site which has launched a campaign to make dashcams a mandatory device in all cars on Australian roads.

They believe that having these installed in cars will reduce deaths on the roads.

A dashcam records traffic. Source: Getty Images
Dashcam are fully legal in Australia as long as they are facing into the road. Source: Getty Images

In a statement, a spokesperson for the website said that “we would like to see the government make it mandatory for every motorist to have a dashcam fitted in their vehicle as an extra layer of protection".

"We feel the time for action is now,” the statement said.

It’s a bold statement as the technology is still very much in an early phase of development, no matter how it is used.

An unwanted distraction

As much as dashcams provide a much-needed information about what happened during an accident, they aren’t without their detractors.

For starters, they could provide an unnecessary distraction to drivers just like navigation systems do.

Australian laws state that dashcams, like all in-car devices, need to be mounted properly so as not to distract the driver.

If they aren’t installed properly, drivers could face hefty penalties for using them incorrectly with severe fines and several demerit points looming for those caught by the cops.

However, the more serious debate is whether dashcams breach privacy laws as those captured in the footage will almost certainly not have given permission to be recorded.

Australian privacy laws dictate that anyone who is caught on film needs to be notified by the driver that they have been recorded and this can have a huge impact on how the footage is used.

If anyone objects to being recorded, it could render the video useless if the police or lawyers want to use it as an admissible piece of evidence in an insurance claim or court case.

Furthermore, laws dictate that footage must be video only and facing into the road meaning anything capturing in-car actions or audio of any type is illegal and breaching passengers’ privacy.

Finding a balance

There’s no doubt that dashcams have a place on the roads and the footage they capture undoubtedly provides legitimate proof of what happened in a road incident.

Road users could still do with more awareness about privacy rules to avoid unwanted hiccups and legal headaches involving any captured footage.

However, provided the owner installs them correctly and gives suitable notice to all parties involved in an incident, they are very much a no-brainer to have in the car should something go awry as we continue the quest to improve road safety.

Driver pointing to dashcam. Source: Getty Images
Dashcams are not allowed to record any in-car audio. Source: Getty Images

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