VIDEO: Dashcams are ‘unbiased witness’ when bad things happen to good drivers

The cameras sell for between $200 and $500, and are becoming increasingly popular

In a video taken through the windshield of Dung Le’s 15-year-old Toyota Echo, an oncoming car breaks the monotony of a wide, nearly empty street on a quiet August morning in a sprawling residential Edmonton neighbourhood.

As it approaches, the car leaves its lane as though turning into a driveway, then straightens and aims head-on at Le’s car. There’s a crashing noise, the dashcam is jolted upward to focus on empty blue sky and a man’s voice is heard saying, “What happened? What happened?”

Le, who is originally from Vietnam, said the footage from his dashcam made it easy when downloaded later on to show exactly what had just happened.

“Lucky I had the dashcam camera when that lady went from the other side into my lane and hit my car. My car is a total writeoff,” the 52-year-old man said in an interview.

“My shoulder and my neck are in pain, sore.”

Dashboard cameras, commonly used in police cars and other emergency vehicles, are increasingly being installed in personal vehicles by motorists who want to bring along an impartial witness when they hit the road.

Camera sales and installations at AutoTemp’s south Calgary vehicle accessories shop are equally split these days between business vehicles and personal cars, said manager Tim Bruce.

“For a category that didn’t exist 10 years ago, it’s becoming more and more popular,” he said.

WATCH: Dangerous pass caught on dash cam near Salmon Arm

The units sell for between $200 and $500, he said. Installation, which involves running wires to the camera for power and fixing it in place, takes two to four hours.

Generally, the more expensive units have the most options, Bruce said, including a second camera for the back window, higher resolution picture quality, larger storage cards, GPS for estimating speed and Wifi connectivity so that the video can be downloaded to a cellphone.

The cameras start operating automatically when the car starts and run continuously but some are also activated when the engine is off if they detect motion or an impact, such as when the car is struck by a vandal or another vehicle, he said.

The memory cards are overwritten as they fill, so the owner has to save a file separately if he or she wants to keep it.

Customers buy cameras for old and news cars alike but Bruce said many come in after they’ve been involved in an accident or an insurance dispute where they wish they had dashcam video.

Insurance companies in Canada don’t offer premium discounts for dashcams yet, said Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations for Ontario for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, but they might in future if they find the cameras reduce the risk of having to pay out a claim.

“Dashcams may, like GPS devices, be a distraction if they’re not properly used. So there’s that to be aware of and be concerned about,” he pointed out.

WATCH: Car flies across median, flips over edge of Brunette overpass

“On the other side of the coin, if someone is involved in a crash or they witness something, the good thing about having dashcam video is it really is an impartial and unbiased witness to the events.”

He recalled a case involving a collision on Highway 401 near Toronto where a vehicle stopped and then suddenly backed up and struck a following car. Typically, the driver of the following car would have been assumed to be at fault in what appeared to be a rear-end collision, but the dashcam video proved it was, in fact, a case of attempted fraud.

Le’s dashcam footage will make a huge difference in settling insurance and legal questions related to the case, said Edmonton personal injury lawyer Norm Assiff, who is representing Le.

Without the video, the other driver could claim Le was at fault, he said. An accident reconstruction after the fact might conclude both parties were somehow at fault and split liability.

In either case, his client could be on the hook for damages and face potential insurance rate hikes, Assiff said.

“In an injury case, which is my expertise, there are always two issues,” the lawyer said.

“The first issue is liability, who’s at fault? The second issue is quantum of damages, how much is the case worth, and causation, did the accident cause the injuries?”

From a legal perspective, there’s no privacy issue because the roadway is considered a public place, he said, adding courts typically consider dashcam video to be admissible as evidence.

Protection from dishonesty is the reason Dung Le bought his dashcam for about $69 from an Internet website about five years ago.

A friend of his who had been involved in an accident was confident the other party would be found liable, but a key witness then gave inaccurate testimony that led to the case going against him.

“A dashcam makes a lot more reliable witness,” Le summed up.

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into Northern Sentinel office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

B.C. premier talks forestry, service needs with handful of northern mayors in Prince George

Prince George meeting completes premier’s tour of Kitimat, Terrace, Fort St. James and Quesnel

Indigenous LNG supporters chide human rights advocates over pipeline comments

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre path

Expect delays between Terrace and Prince Rupert on Highway 16

Avalanche control work is planned between Legaic Rd and Frank St. for 136.8 km

VIDEO: Trudeau insists Iran respect families’ wishes when it comes to burials

All 176 people on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 were killed

Horgan unveils B.C. cabinet shuffle changes

Premier John Horgan has made three major changes to his cabinet

Dog reunited with Tofino owner, months after being taken from beach

Shannon Boothman ‘ecstatic’ at pet’s return after a tip leads to social media search

B.C.’s first ride-hailing app to launch in Tofino, Whistler in February

The Whistle! app will be available in Tofino on Feb.1 and in Whistler Feb. 6.

Councillor resigns in Revelstoke after colleagues approved 67% raise

Council approved a 134 per cent raise for the mayor of Revelstoke

Rolled-over dairy truck in Abbotsford lost 40,000 litres of milk

Truck removed Sunday, Jan. 19, with specialized equipment to upright vehicle

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. asks health-care staff to be ‘vigilant’ when screening for coronavirus

This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a case of the virus in Washington State

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

Most Read