Why Do So Many Russian Drivers Have Dashboard Cams?

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YouTube has become the depository for every lyric video, parody, and, apparently, copious amounts of shocking footage from dash-mounted cameras in Russia. In the latest to go viral, one man confronts the driver of the car behind him, and consequently gets beat up by a bunch of costumed characters, including SpongeBob SquarePants:

Dash cams aren’t completely foreign concepts to American drivers, but not everyone has one strapped on their vehicle’s dashboard—they're mostly devices for police officers and highway patrol. Why are these cameras a key part of technology in Russian vehicles?

An estimated one million Russian motorists have installed dash cams in their cars. Though some of them capture things like the 10-ton meteor that exploded in the atmosphere last year, the cameras are popular for just one reason: ensuring justice when it comes to proving accidents on the roads.

In 2012, Al Jazeera spoke with motorists who never drive without their cameras. One driver said others believe that police officers are only on the roads to take bribes, bending traffic laws—or ignoring them completely—to benefit themselves. A camera will save you from false accusations.

“In Russia, everyone should have a camera on their dashboard. It’s better than keeping a lead pipe under your seat for protection,” writes Marina Galperina, a New York-based blogger who hails from Russia.

According to Galperina, hit and runs are “very common,” and insurance companies have begun to crack down on claims, often denying any claim with little evidence. Witnesses aren’t much help, either; Russian courts have turned into a he-said-she-said mess when it comes to traffic accidents. “Dash-cam footage is the only real way to substantiate your claims in the court of law,” Galperina writes.

The camera records non-stop until its limited flash storage fills up; then, the drive erases itself and begins recording again. If an accident happens, the footage can be pulled off and used later. The technology is much cheaper—ranging from as little as $50 to as much as $200—than insurance. Because of lax law enforcement and scams on the road, including staged crashes and already damaged cars presented as evidence in a new case, buying a good policy is outrageously expensive. A cheap camera can save thousands, which is why such a large number of Russian drivers have one.

Parts of this post originally appeared last year.

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September 3, 2014 - 10:10am
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