Why Do So Many Russian Drivers Have Dashboard Cams?

Youtube
Youtube

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.

What Happened to the Physical Copy of Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' Speech?

AFP, Getty Images
AFP, Getty Images

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave a speech for the ages, delivering the oratorical masterpiece "I Have a Dream" to nearly 250,000 people.

When he was done, King stepped away from the podium, folded his speech, and found himself standing in front of George Raveling, a former Villanova basketball player who, along with his friend Warren Wilson, had been asked to provide extra security around Dr. King while he was speaking. "We were both tall, gangly guys," Raveling told TIME in 2003. "We didn't know what we were doing but we certainly made for a good appearance."

Moved by the speech, Raveling saw the folded papers in King’s hands and asked if he could have them. King gave the young volunteer the speech without hesitation, and that was that.

“At no time do I remember thinking, ‘Wow, we got this historic document,’” Raveling told Sports Illustrated in 2015. Not realizing he was holding what would become an important piece of history in his hands, Raveling went home and stuck the three sheets of paper into a Harry Truman biography for safekeeping. They sat there for nearly two decades while Raveling developed an impressive career coaching NCAA men’s basketball.

In 1984, he had recently taken over as the head coach at the University of Iowa and was chatting with Bob Denney of the Cedar Rapids Gazette when Denney brought up the March on Washington. That's when Raveling dropped the bomb: “You know, I’ve got a copy of that speech," he said, and dug it out of the Truman book. After writing an article about Raveling's connection, the reporter had the speech professionally framed for the coach.

Though he displayed the framed speech in his house for a few years, Raveling began to realize the value of the piece and moved it to a bank vault in Los Angeles. Though he has received offers for King’s speech—one collector wanted to purchase the speech for $3 million in 2014—Raveling has turned them all down. He has been in talks with various museums and universities and hopes to put the speech on display in the future, but for now, he cherishes having it in his possession.

“That to me is something I’ll always be able to look back and say I was there,” Raveling said in the original Cedar Rapids Gazette article. “And not only out there in that arena of people, but to be within touching distance of him. That’s like when you’re 80 or 90 years old you can look back and say ‘I was in touching distance of Abraham Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Address.’"

“I have no idea why I even asked him for the speech,” Raveling, now CEO of Coaching for Success, has said. “But I’m sure glad that I did.”

What is a Polar Vortex?

Edward Stojakovic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Edward Stojakovic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If you’ve turned on the news or stepped outside lately, you're familiar with the record-breaking cold that is blanketing a lot of North America. According to The Washington Post, a mass of bone-chilling air over Canada—a polar vortex—split into three parts at the beginning of 2019, and one is making its way to the eastern U.S. Polar vortexes can push frigid air straight from the arctic tundra into more temperate regions. But just what is this weather phenomenon?

How does a polar vortex form?

Polar vortexes are basically arctic hurricanes or cyclones. NASA defines them as “a whirling and persistent large area of low pressure, found typically over both North and South poles.” A winter phenomenon, vortexes develop as the sun sets over the pole and temperatures cool, and occur in the middle and upper troposphere and the stratosphere (roughly, between six and 31 miles above the Earth’s surface).

Where will a polar vortex hit?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the vortexes move in a counterclockwise direction. Typically, they dip down over Canada, but according to NBC News, polar vortexes can move into the contiguous U.S. due to warm weather over Greenland or Alaska—which forces denser cold air south—or other weather patterns.

Polar vortexes aren't rare—in fact, arctic winds do sometimes dip down into the eastern U.S.—but sometimes the sheer size of the area affected is much greater than normal.

How cold is a polar vortex?

So cold that frozen sharks have been known to wash up on Cape Cod beaches. So cold that animal keepers at the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada once decided to bring its group of king penguins indoors for warmth (the species lives on islands north of Antarctica and the birds aren't used to extreme cold.) Even parts of Alabama and other regions in the Deep South have seen single-digit temperatures and wind chills below zero.

But thankfully, this type of arctic freeze doesn't stick around forever: Temperatures will gradually warm up.

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