A dashboard or witness camera can be extremely useful, especially if you’re involved in an accident and need to show your insurer or the police a second by second account of the incident.
They’re also a vital tool for fleets, as they can be used to monitor company drivers’ behaviour and send immediate footage of an accident or near miss to a Fleet Manager.
Here’s what you need to know about dashcams and where they stand in the eyes of the law
Are dash cameras legal?
Put simply, yes. Having a dash cam in your car is no different from having a CCTV system outside your house. It exists to record footage around the car rather than film somebody or something specific, so it isn’t in breach of any privacy laws. If you’re taking your car abroad, however, the local privacy laws first as dash cams aren’t legal in all countries. In some countries, there are restrictions on dash cams and/or the video footage you record using one. Their use is restricted in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, for example, and they’re completely illegal in Portugal and Luxembourg.
Dash camera laws
Operating a dashboard camera is perfectly legal however there are some other laws you need to be aware of. If you’re carrying passengers, then you must inform them that a camera is in operation inside your vehicle. For those making money from transporting passengers i.e taxi drivers, driving instructors and coach drivers, the requirement is very specific, and the device must be switched off if the passenger requests it. The law is also very specific about operating its controls. You can only touch the device or operate its controls while the vehicle is parked and stationary, but please note that this doesn’t relate to red traffic lights. It’s an instant £100 fine and three points.
Can dash cam footage be used in court?
Yes, dash cams can provide valuable information. In a court case In 2015 the UK courts saw the first jail sentence handed out off the back of incriminating dash cam footage. The dangerous driver wasn’t caught red-handed by police but instead was only arrested after police were shown dash cam footage from a concerned citizen.
Police have also begun using dashcam footage to aid in pleas for witnesses. In 2017 alone dash cam footage helped bring to justice a Humberside hit-and-runner, a Yorkshire dangerous driver, a West Yorkshire road rage assault, a Surrey roadside scam and a West Midlands. However, while most people buy dash cams to protect themselves, they can also lead to the dash cam owner being prosecuted. The police have a right to demand the dashcam footage from a driver they have pulled over, and the GPS used to prove such things as speed and traffic infringements.
Installing the dashcam incorrectly
You may be breaking the law if you install your dash cam incorrectly. It’s extremely important that it could not be deemed to be obstructing your field of vision while driving. If police decide that it’s positioned unsafely you could be in for a fine, and footage recorded on it could be rendered inadmissible in court.