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Tech Saves the Day – the Dash Cam

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I had been looking to buy a dash cam when one showed up on my doorstep, a gift from my son. Dash cams have been around for several years and I have read several articles about the necessity to have one in countries like Russia where if you don’t have a dash cam, you will be a victim of a staged accident. Since there are many options to consider when buying a dash cam, I remained stuck, not able to finalize a decision and bite the bullet.

Now that I have had a firsthand experience, I have seen just how invaluable a dash cam is under the right circumstances. I can now appreciate why certain features are more critical than others and the ultimate importance of having one in each of one’s vehicles. My firsthand experience was an accident with our car when my wife was driving without passengers. I got the phone call just before noon from my wife that she was in a car accident.

The damage to both vehicles was to the front end and on the other vehicle the right front wheel well. On our vehicle, it was to the front end and the left wheel well. Without witnesses, considering the damage pattern of both vehicles, and both drivers saying they had green lights, it was a matter of “she said, she said” and the insurance company would not accept responsibility. That was until I submitted the dash cam video.

So what’s the takeaway? Dash cams are relatively inexpensive devices [the one that captured my wife’s accident was purchased on Amazon for under $50 US (around ₹7,496)], had excellent reviews and made by Apeman (Apeman C420) that everyone should have in each of their vehicles. Sharing a single dash cam amongst vehicles is a very bad idea because if dash cams are not fully automatic, coming on each time the car is started and staying on for the full duration of the ride and then turning off automatically, the likelihood of the dash cam working its magic in the unexpected incidents is greatly diminished. Dash cams need to be “set up, test the results by taking a ride and then reviewing the video for clarity, positioning, and automatic operation, and then forget it,” that is until you need it.

Here is my take on the critical features/options for choosing your dash cam:
  1. Resolution – at least 1080p, 4K is now affordable and would be a better option to catch license plate numbers, but it also requires 4 times the storage space
  2. Viewing angle – at least 150 degrees
  3. Window mounting suction cup – this is critical, the dash cam has to stay on your window, if it keeps falling off you won’t use it
  4. Night vision – check out YouTube videos of the dash cams you are reviewing to confirm that the captured night video is of value.
  5. Power plug – it must fit well into the cigarette lighter (power point) or the automatic operation of the dash cam will be hindered
  6. Ease of removal of the dash cam but leaving on the suction cup – this is important for theft prevention. You do not want to keep putting on and removing the suction cup from your windshield as it can be time-consuming to affix the suction cup correctly.
  7. Removable SD memory card storage.

Dash cams are not only helpful to car owners when they are in an accident, but they can also prove very valuable when a driver witnesses a road rage incident where they are the target or when another vehicle operator is the target. Some dash cams can be set up to monitor your vehicle when it is parked and even notify you of an incident if one occurs.  Since dash cams store both video and audio a driver can read off a license plate number and car description aloud and know that it’s captured on the dash cam, so you don’t need to write it down or memorize the information.

Technological advances are often a double-edged sword, where the benefits must be weighed against the drawbacks of costs, inconvenience, and loss of privacy; dash cams are no exception. Many dash cams record all the audio (unless configured not to do so) spoken when the car is in operation, so you need to be mindful of what is said in a “dash cammed” vehicle. Dash cams will capture evidence of the cam’s owner’s own mistakes and could be used to prove the guilt of the cam owner. The vehicle operator needs to pay attention to the dash cam’s signalling indicating that the cam is in operation and when the operation has ceased or like any other technology it may stop operating and become just a useless appendage to the vehicle’s windshield. However, the benefits cannot be overstated if you need a witness and one does not come forward.

Dash cams have become a commodity product. The components used to make them are inexpensive and readily available. While there are many options that can complicate purchase decisions, the most important decision is “do I need a dash cam?” As with any product, it is important to read the reviews and make purchases from reliable companies that stand behind their products. That said, the most important decision is whether or not you need a dash cam. In my experience, the answer is a resounding “YES.” Regardless of the sophistication, options and features of the dash cam you choose, having one in your vehicle is much more important than having the “best one” in your vehicle.

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Ronald Kaplan
Ronald Kaplan, MS, MBA is a partner at SICons, a management consulting and computer forensic expert witness firm in Los Angeles. He has authored articles ranging from smartphone privacy and security to malware and encryption issues published all over the globe. He has taught several courses on computer-related subjects at UCLA extension and testified or consulted as an expert on a wide variety of technical issues in dozens of cases. He can be reached at rkaplan@sicons.com.

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