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7 reasons to use a dashboard camera

By Posted : 04/03/2015

Dash cameraCar insurance companies are slow to embrace new technology.

Insurers want proof that an item -- whether it’s air bags, a collision-avoidance system or a dashboard camera -- will help decrease crashes, or otherwise improve their bottom line, to extend a discount to motorists. Sometimes that takes a while.

Once the data show that a particular safety device will save car insurance companies money if used by its customers, they begin to roll out discounts.  

That gives current and future dash cam owners in U.S. hope: A few car insurance providers in the United Kingdom have begun to offer customers a 10 to 15 percent discount if a dash cam is installed in their vehicles. 

Dash cams start well under $100. Most record hours of video in a continuous loop, with recent video replacing older footage, when the car is started. Fancier cameras can record even when the car is off – triggered by motion sensors – or come with GPS sensors that overlay the time, speed and location. Some offer two-way video of the road ahead and of the driver and passengers inside the car.

A dash camera car insurance discount is not yet offered in the U.S., so it can’t directly affect your premium, but there are advantages to placing one, or more, dashboard cameras in your vehicle. And some of the benefits indirectly affect your premium, which in turn helps keep your car insurance rates down. (See "What you need to know about dash cams.")

While merely owning a dash cam may not lower your car insurance rates, the footage that the camera provides may turn out invaluable in certain situations.

1. Have a record of your accident

Drivers often have completely different memories and descriptions of an accident. With video proof that you weren’t the driver responsible for a car crash you can save yourself from being found at fault by a car insurance company -- and receiving the higher auto insurance rates that go with that finding. 

Your dash cam footage can also expedite your claim, as it may prevent you from having drawn-out discussions with insurance companies about who was at fault.

2. Get out of a ticket

If you’re stopped for a traffic violation you didn’t commit, offer up your dash cam footage to the law enforcement officer before the ticket is written.  If the officer won’t watch it, bring the footage to court to contest the ticket. 

Moving traffic violations will normally give you points on your state driving record and raise your car insurance rates.  Not receiving a ticket -- or beating a ticket in court due to video proof of no wrongdoing – will keep you from a nasty auto insurance surcharge. 

Recently in New York a two-way dash cam saved a driver from receiving a ticket for using his cellphone while driving.  The officer let the driver go without a ticket after viewing dash cam footage showing the motorist wasn’t talking on his phone, but merely scratching and tugging on his ear.

3. Help fight insurance fraud

If you have a feeling the accident you were in, or just witnessed, may have been a “crash for cash,” turn over your dash cam footage to the insurance companies involved, or to the state insurance fraud unit, to investigate.  Catching a fraudster in a staged accident, can indirectly lower your rates. (Watch a video compilation of Russian scammers caught at work.)

The FBI estimates that the cost of insurance fraud is more than $40 billion per year. When auto insurers unknowingly settle fraudulent claims, all motorists pay hundreds of dollars extra each year because companies divide the cost of claims among consumers.

Mercury Insurance’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) often uses video to fight insurance fraud.  For example, a car collision captured on a dash camera showing a driver making a sudden and unnecessary stop helped the Mercury SIU team defend their insured in a personal injury claim.  The dash cam evidence directly resulted in the claim and pending lawsuit against Mercury’s customer being dropped.

Dan Bales, national director of SIU, said in a statement, “People try to cheat the system every day, and dash cams have become a huge asset for our team and drivers to fight these fraudsters.” 

4.  Make you a better driver

Dancers look in the mirror to correct their technique, athletes watch video of their previous games to improve their play, and you can review your daily driving footage to become a better driver.  Reviewing how you drove in the last week can help you see ways to correct driving mistakes, such as braking too hard or switching lanes abruptly.

Being a better driver should lead to a good driving record, which should lead to you obtaining (or keeping) a good driver discount.  A good driver discount is one of the best car insurance discounts to have since it can be up to 25 percent and typically extends to most of your auto coverages.

5. Review your teenager’s driving skills

Drivers under the age of 25 have some of the highest car insurance rates due to their lack of experience behind the wheel and tendency to crash and cause claims.  Anything you can do to keep your young driver from getting in an accident or from getting a ticket -- either of which is bound to raise your already high rates into the stratosphere -- is well worth the effort. 

Set up a regular time to review the dash cam footage and see what your child can do better and take your teen out to practice those skills. “A teen’s first month behind the wheel is many times more dangerous than his sixth,” says Insurance.com managing editor Des Toups. “Whatever you can do to make those first few miles safe is critical.”

A two-way dash cam or multiple dash cameras for a teen could be a good idea.  That way you can see not only how your teen is driving but what is going on inside of the vehicle. Is your teenager paying attention to the road or instead is he texting, on his cellphone or distracted by passengers?  You can curtail bad behavior inside the car before it leads to an accident or ticket.

Video is an integral part of American Family Insurance’s TeenSafe Driver Program, which allows parents to see events that triggered erratic or abrupt moves on the road.

Keeping a driving record clean will lead to your child to receive a good driver discount quicker (typically you must have a license with a clean record for at least three years to be eligible). There are many ways to lower your teen or young drivers insurance.

6.  Have an eye on your unattended vehicle

Most dash cameras have an option that allows you to turn it on standby that permits the camera only to turn on if it feels motion in or around the car.  So, if someone breaks into your car or hits your parked car and takes off, you may be able to review the dash cam footage and find the individual responsible.

If you can’t find the person on your own, then you can hand the footage over to your insurance company to prove how the damage was done (again might keep your rates low by keeping you from being found at fault for an incident) and also to the police to see if the culprit can be located and held accountable.

7. Capture unexpected events

You may not catch something as astonishing as meteors raining down like Russian dash cam owners captured a few years back; however, you may catch a deer darting out in the road causing your accident, a rockslide that damages your car, or neighbor’s tree that falls on your car during a storm.  With that footage in hand, you can show your car insurance company what brought about your claim and may save yourself from a surcharge.

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