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Do you need a dashcam?

The way cars work has remained fundamentally unchanged since the internal combustion engine boldly took over from the horse. But radical new technologies continue to be added to our cars, such as GPS systems, parking sensors and now, dashcams. A dashcam might be exciting, but do you need one?

Why a dashcam?

A dashcam (dashboard-mounted camera or digital video recorder) is designed to record everything that happens while you drive. It records whether someone has cut you off, fallen on your vehicle, or suddenly broken down in front. The dashcam records it as your version of events.

AAMI claims about 13% of drivers in Australia use this technology. A Slater and Gordon survey of 1,700 drivers in 2014 found 57% supported dashcam use, 16% had used them and 41% were thinking about purchase. They are affordable: prices in Australia vary from $60 to $200, depending on available features.

Yet the value of dashcams may not be obvious. Australian insurers do not make any kind of concessions for policy holders who install dashcams in their cars. Dashcams might show something happening, but may not help explain why it happened. They also face in one direction and, like the human eye, cannot see behind.

Even so, UK evidence suggests dashcams can help people who are involved in accidents to provide proof to make a claim.

Insurance discounts

At least two UK insurers now offer discounts, from 10-15%, on premiums for cars fitted with dashcams. Swiftcover, for example, offers 12.5% discount on premiums for a particular brand of dashcam. AXA, the large multinational insurance group that owns Swiftcover, says a dashcam can:
  • Prove an accident was not your fault
  • Help settle claims more quickly, which reduces the time and cost of claims
  • Get back your excess payment
  • Let you keep your No Claims Discount.

Australian laws on dashcams are clear. It is legal to record video using a dashcam as long as it is mounted correctly on the dashboard without blocking your vision and you do not manually use it while driving. It is legal to record sound in a public place but not within the car without permission, so the sound feature may need to be turned off.

An AAMI Insurance spokesperson claimed dashcams are a valuable source of evidence during disputes and “dash-cam footage from a customer has helped us decide the claim and determine that the customer is not at fault”. Police already use dashcams in highway patrol cars and can use video footage in evidence.

The next step is for Australian insurers to embrace the technology.

If more drivers install them and they do help to simplify the claims process, perhaps insurers will consider them when setting CTP premiums.

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