Can dashcams make our roads safer?

Mike Singer and Jeremy Pinnington of OpenEye Security and Installations say misperceptions of legality are inhibiting the use of dashcams in the UAE. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Mike Singer and Jeremy Pinnington of OpenEye Security and Installations say misperceptions of legality are inhibiting the use of dashcams in the UAE. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Dashboard-mounted cameras might seem to be an obvious way to improve the safety of our roads, particularly because they record continuously when the car is in motion without requiring any action that might distract the driver and because they can capture the build-up to an incident as well as the incident itself.

Despite this, the use of dashcams remains low, in part because of public perceptions about their legality. After several drivers were successfully prosecuted for posting on social media examples of bad driving, road rage and inconsiderate parking, many believe dashcams cannot be used at all.

The law does not distinguish between dashcams or any other form of camera. As Jeremy Pinnington, co-founder of Open-Eye Security Systems and Installation, told The National this week: “What you do with the footage is where the legality comes into it.” The law is geared around privacy, which is why videos taken in public areas require the written permission of those depicted if they are to be broadcast.

However there is an important exemption to this: if the footage is forwarded to the police. Dubai Police have launched the region’s first registry of dashcam users so that incriminating videos from these drivers can be sent to the authorities. The police have already sought the help of the public in identifying drivers who fail to have their children in proper child seats, including taking photographs of those who fail to do so. Dashcams can achieve this without either distracting the driver and without the other driver realising they are being recorded, thereby avoiding possible confrontations. Dashcams originated in the United States for reasons that bear little relation to their primary purpose here. Some insurers offered lower premiums for those who had dashcams because they could provide a definitive version of how a collision occurred, saving costly and uncertain litigation to determine which of the competing eyewitness accounts was deemed to be more credible.

Civil litigation is less of a focus here but the police’s crash investigators would certainly welcome the definitive and objective record that a dashcam video can provide. It is also possible that if dashcams become a more familiar sight on local cars that they will have a restraining effect on how some people drive. As we have often said, there is no single solution to making our roads safer but dashcams would seem to be an obvious and logical extra tool.

Published: September 12, 2016 04:00 AM

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