Record the road ahead with a dashcam.
In the event of a road accident, a dashboard camera (or dashcam) might provide evidence to help smooth over your insurance claim or identify an uninsured driver or rider.
The picture quality recorded by a dashcam is crucial – it has to have enough clarity and detail to provide evidence to police or insurers, including number plates. We assessed picture quality in daylight, artificial light and low light conditions, while stationary and moving. We looked for clarity of image, detail, any blurring from vibration, and how well colours were represented. We also measured the field of view.
A dashcam needs to be easy to use, so we looked at instructions and installation, changing settings, fixing and removing the camera, and viewing recordings on the camera and a computer.
Road accidents happen, and they are never our fault because we’re all perfect drivers, right? Dashcam footage could provide proof of fault, or dangerous driving, to your insurer or the police. If the other party isn’t insured or leaves the scene, the recording could be all you have to identify them.
However, they aren’t cheap and to justify the outlay you have to think when you were last involved in a road accident, or the last time you could have used a dashcam recording?
Built-in display: This lets you check the camera alignment and review recordings without a computer. Some models use your smartphone as a display, via an app.
GPS: Automatically adds your location, speed and time to the video footage.
Power/battery: Most dashcams plug into your car’s 12V power socket, so they work when the car is on. Some can be permanently wired into the car, allowing them to work when the car is off. An internal battery lets the camera run without an external power connection, but usually for not much longer than an hour.
Continuous loop recording: Most cameras record video on a continuous loop – overwriting older video with new footage. A bigger memory card allows more video to be stored, we recommend a card of at least 16GB for HD recordings.
Impact detection: Sensors in the camera detect impacts or heavy braking. Some models automatically save this video as a separate file that won't be deleted, while some also record data about the impact's force and direction.
Parking mode: Some cameras can keep running and detect impacts when the car is parked. Recording time is limited by battery capacity, unless the camera power is permanently wired into the car.
To get the most from your dashcam, it must be positioned to have the broadest possible view of the road ahead. Dashcams come with either a suction mount for sticking to the windscreen, or an adhesive mount for sticking to the dashboard.
Wherever you place it, it shouldn’t obstruct your vision - especially not the “critical vision area” defined in WOF guidelines. The rules allow “radio antennae”, to be placed wholly within 100mm of any edge of the windscreen.
Dashcams are becoming more common in commercial truck fleets, protecting the company and their drivers should they be involved in an accident. Some insurers overseas have started offering discounts on car insurance premiums for drivers of dashcam-equipped cars. That hasn’t happened yet in New Zealand, but there’s no reason why it wouldn’t.
Currently, no cars have a dashcam fitted as standard, but that could change in the future. For example, many new cars now come fitted with reversing cameras and collision-avoidance systems. Just a few years ago, these were only found in expensive luxury models, and 10 years ago they were unheard of.