A dash cam, as the name suggests, is a type of digital camera typically mounted on a car dashboard to record video footages during a trip. The camera records the immediate surrounding area of the car while the vehicle is moving (the engine is on). There are several major types of dash cam:
- Front View: a dash cam with the capability of recording only the area in front of a car on which it is mounted. This is the cheapest type but with obvious lack of features. This will only record anything ahead of you.
- Front and Back Views: possibly the most common dash cam type of them all. It records everything that happens in front and in the back of the car. Certain models also offer connectivity from the rear camera to a screen also mounted on the dashboard, so you can see potential obstacles when you are reversing the car.
- Cabin View: most commonly used in taxis and other car services, the camera gives bird-eye point of view to record what the passengers and driver do inside the car. Many parents install cabin view camera to see what their kids are doing in the passenger seats.
A dash cam stores images and footage in a memory card just like regular digital camera. Unlike your typical digital camera, however, a dash cam records continuously in loop mode. Newer footage constantly overwrites the old one after a given recording duration; some dash cam models allow you to set the loop duration for examples in 3-minutes, 5-minutes, 10-minutes, and so on.
In many situations where dash cam can be helpful during your trip, there are times when digital camera will make a perfect companion. Here are some reasons why dash cam -and sometimes digital camera- are crucial.
- Undeniable evidence in the event of car accident. Any reasonable person does not want to get involved in road accident or car crash, but if you are indeed involved in such unfortunate circumstance, a dash cam can give an undeniable piece of evidence to see whether or not you are at fault. While a dash cam records in loop, it has G-sensor or accelerometer which detects sudden braking, rapid changes of speed, hard impact, and everything else that potentially is resulted from accident. In the event of a crash, a dash cam saves the footage immediately before, during, and after the incident. The footage will not get overwritten automatically, although you can erase it manually on a computer later.
You must understand that dash cam has limitation in terms of focus, colors, and overall image quality compared to a digital camera. In case you want to use the footage as evidence, it would be much better if you complement it with better quality images captured using a regular digital camera. Get out of the car and take some photos (don’t forget the timestamp) to supplement the footage. You can also take photographs using your phones for the sake of redundancy.
- Fight corruption. When you are falsely accused of breaking the traffic regulations, a dash cam is an excellent equipment to prove your innocence. Dash cam also records audio so the subsequent conversation after you pull-over will be on the footage as well. A digital camera comes in handy if you want to create a backup, or immediately watch the video afterward because some dash cam does not have connection to any screen. Again, phone (with camera) is also usable, but it may not be very practical since you have to remove the memory card first, and that’s assuming your phone has memory card slot to begin with.
- Prevent fraud. Insurance fraud is not as uncommon as you may think. Irresponsible individuals deliberately cause an accident and ask for reimbursement/payout from an insurance company because you are framed as the at-fault party. Watch the footage in your digital camera just to be sure of it before you make accusations.
- Prevent vehicle abuse. If you put a car of yours in the hands of a driver, a dash cam acts as preventive measure to avoid any inappropriate treatment to the vehicle. Should that happen and is shown in the dash cam footage, use your digital camera to take photographs of vehicle damages or any leftover of unprofessional behavior inside the car as evidence.
- Prevent vehicle misuse. Used alongside vehicle location tracking system, a dash cam contributes to better fleet maintenance and management in any transportation service company. Disobedience to traffic law should be noticeable in the tracking system, while generally poor driving behaviors (that potentially lead to crashes) should be visible in footage. Similar to the previous point, a digital camera can produce better image quality when taking photographs of misuse-related damages.
- Monitor teen drivers. If you worry too much anytime your kid takes the steering wheel, a dash cam should make good comprehensive report on whether anything dangerous happens on the road. Tell your kid that having a digital camera in the car can be useful too.
- Reporting bad drivers. Every driver is responsible for making the roads safer. In addition to safe-driving practices, you can take part in promoting safety by reporting bad drivers to the authority. Reckless driving, speeding, illegal turns, or any behavior that puts the driver and others to risk of accidents should be reported and you can provide evidence if you have a dash cam. Make sure your dash cam has a write-protect button to save the current footage anytime necessary. Do NOT record with digital camera while you are driving; ask a passenger to do that if possible.
- Educating your family. One the main purposes of installing a dash cam is to acquire evidence when presenting your case to the police or auto insurance company indeed, but the footage can be useful materials for educating your family about road safety. If you are a driving instructor, dash cam videos will make explaining to your students much easier too.
- Easier auto insurance claiming process. Making auto insurance claim can be a long complicated process, but it does not have to be like that when you have video evidence showing what actually happened and you were not at-fault. Combine that with clear photographs of damages and vehicle license plates of the other party involved to make more compelling evidence.
- Prevent parking accidents. Particularly for beginners, parking can be a real nightmare. In case you are worried that your car gets scratched while it is parked by other drivers, use dash cam that has “parking” feature with which you can leave it on even when the vehicle engine is off. Such model also has auto shut-off function after few hours so it does not drain car battery. Grab your phones or camera to take photos of the scratches and damages for evidence as well.
- Record the whole trip. Another useful function of a dash cam is that it allows you to record your entire trip. Of course the memory card will be filled up pretty quickly for recording high resolution footage, and this is where digital camera or camcorder comes in.
- Record the unexpected. You may come across an interesting, bizarre, weird, ridiculous, mesmerizing, bewildering phenomenon on the road, and your dash cam is always ready to record the video for your viewing pleasure back home. Since you also have a digital camera, make the time to pull over and produce better quality recording; you have more freedom to move and point the camera.
- Showing off a god-like driving precision. Just for the fun of it, record your impressive driving skills in first-person point of view. Use a digital camera when the memory card in the dash cam is full.
Some high-end dash cam models also record telemetric data such as location, speed, and driving route, so the footage is actually filled with more details than you will probably need for any purpose. A digital camera, on the other hand, does not store traffic-related telemetric data, but it is good to produce additional (and better quality) images or videos should you need them.