Johannesburg - Road rage incidents are all the rage these days. Along with spectacular crashes, near-misses and hilarious mishaps. Even blazing meteors can’t escape the views of dashcams today, and chances are any web-browsing motoring enthusiast has surfed his way to footage captured by one of these increasingly popular devices.
The craze hasn’t quite taken off in South Africa like it has in Russia, for instance, where than a million drivers swear by these simple little windscreen-mounted video recorders, but it’s a trend that’s growing globally and one that’s kept You Tube’s hungry appetite for material filled with over 800 000 uploads to date. Internet viewership, however, comes as a side-effect to the devices’ intended purpose.
THE PERFECT EYEWITNESS
GPS company Garmin, which recently released a range of dashcams in South Africa, calls the device “an eye witness that never blinks” and says it “gives drivers peace of mind knowing should any event occur, it will be captured with detailed information like time and date embedded into the recording”.
Garmin avoids legal terminology completely, and never makes mention of words like “litigation” or “evidence”, but we asked a few insurance underwriters if footage of accidents caught on film could be used to support or repudiate claims in South Africa and were told that not only would it be reviewed, but has already been used to determine liability in the past.
“Footage from dashboard camera recorders could be very useful to support an insurance claim and to apportion blame after a collision between vehicles,” said Alba van den Heever, legal adviser at SHA Specialist Underwriters. “It may also have a significant impact on legal defence costs expenditure as it would be very difficult for a negligent or reckless driver to deny that he was at fault, if his actions were clearly recorded on video.”
We tested a Garmin unit for two weeks and despite keeping the camera rolling for every drive in this period we weren’t able to capture anything of interest (besides the usual red robot-skipping, a host of broken taillights and plenty of wayward pedestrians). But there is certainly some comfort in knowing that Big Brother is keeping a watchful eye if anything contentious happens.
The device comes with a 4GB memory card good for around four hours of high-resolution playback, and footage records over itself in one continuous loop separated into individual files for each drive. The power cable, which plugs into your lighter socket, triggers an on/off switch on each startup to make for hassle-free recording of every trip.
There’s even a G-sensor which will detect collisions and automatically write-protect the necessary video file, and the camera’s also capable of still shots for snaps of an accident scene after the fact. A 5.8cm display screen makes it easy to aim the device in the right direction, but to avoid distraction it fades shortly after each startup.
Functionality is designed in a way that once it’s positioned, you can forget about it until an event occurs.
A neat added bonus is the camera’s mounting hardware, which can swivel easily in any direction. Arrive at a roadblock or get stopped by the police, and it’s possible to point the lens directly at the driver’s window to record possible nefarious behaviour.
Garmin’s Dash Cam 10 (without GPS) is priced at R2 600 and the Dash Cam 20 (with GPS to pinpoint exact event locations) is around R3 000.