As automotive technology, and technology in general, has advanced, vehicles have become increasingly safer, more reliable, and better for the environment. Specifically regarding safety, new vehicles in 2012 had a 56% lower fatality risk than those in the 1950s. According to NHTSA, that is a cumulative 600,000 lives saved from 1960 to 2012 from safety improvements alone. The emergence of seat belts, air bags, and improved structural engineering have reduced fatalities, but backup cameras, electronic stability control, and other driver assistance features have reduced the risk that an accident occurs in the first place.
These are all astonishing improvements that have been made possible through innovation and technological advancement. Now, though, there is another level of safety that, thanks to these prior innovations, we now have the luxury of being concerned with – safety from liability.
In the past, a driver’s primary concern would have been mortality, and while that is still the case, the increased likelihood of surviving a car crash means the concern can shift from mortality or medical bills to cost of repairs and auto insurance rates. It is bad enough to be in an accident, but it’s even worse if you have to pay for something that wasn’t your fault. For this reason, I recommend the purchase and installation of a dash cam in every vehicle which gets driven on a daily basis.
Accidents Are Chaotic
If you have never been in an auto accident, count yourself lucky. Those who have will find the following paragraphs familiar, as they probably had to speak with an insurance adjuster at least once or twice. For the former group, let me explain what auto insurance adjusters are and how they operate.
First, the accident occurs, and it is not certain who is at fault or there’s a probability that multiple parties share negligence. This is essentially any accident that isn’t a rear end. If there is any question as to who caused the accident, the claim goes to a liability adjuster within the insurance company of whoever filed the claim. Most accident claims involving two people will have two adjusters as well. The adjuster’s job is to gather information through any means available to determine what actually happened and assign negligence based on state law. This almost always means gathering an official recorded statement from all parties involved, a police report, and damage photos if possible. As a former claims adjuster, we would even use Google Maps to find the area where the accident occurred and, using statements and the police report, plot out how the accident happened.
Photos can tell a lot, but as you probably guessed, people have the capacity to lie and stretch the truth. Even if you get a good adjuster who can see through the falsehoods, the other driver may have an adjuster who doesn’t, and that easily complicates the retribution process. You might ultimately win out, but arbitration can take months (arbitration is simply the process by which an unbiased third party looks at the evidence and makes a binding decision on the claim), and most people don’t want to wait that long to get their vehicle fixed or receive a reimbursement on their deductible.
In addition to that complication, there is another trend which I saw occurring in the insurance industry before I left. That is, in my opinion, insurance companies are trying to give their adjusters as many claims as possible so they can hire fewer adjusters and reduce costs. Most disputed claims go to arbitration anyway, so why would they spend more money on more adjusters to allocate more time towards each claim when it’s going to end up in the same place anyway? This means each claim receives less and less attention, increasing the chances that the adjuster simply doesn’t have the time to investigate your claim properly.
That unfortunate truth is a product of other insurance trends that I don’t have time to go into. The point is this: if you are party to a disputed auto accident there is a high probability you will not be financially rectified for a significant period of time due to circumstances outside of your control.
Regain Control With A Dash Cam
This isn’t to say that insurance is bad. In fact, apart from being legally required to operate a vehicle, it instills social trust in a way that would not exist if auto insurance was optional. The law reaffirms the social contract every driver has with each other which says, “Hey, I’m going to drive in such a manner that keeps myself and everyone around me as safe as reasonably possible.”
To that end, your first responsibility as a driver is to, well, be a responsible driver. This means obeying the rules of the road to the best of your ability and reacting to danger in a manner that does not create more danger. However, even with laws in place and statutes enforced, not everyone adheres to this social contract in an ideal manner. That is why you must also take steps to keep yourself and your family safe, from both physical and financial harm.
The best way I can see to do this is to install a dash cam in your vehicle. Decent cameras only cost a few hundred bucks, which is less than the average auto insurance deductible. Being a good driver is important but does not provide the guarantee an accident won’t occur. What a dash cam helps guarantee is that a good driver who is attentive and obeys the rules of the road will not become prey to the chaos that a bad driver with a lying tongue can bring.
Dash Cam Suggestions And Specs
Before scouring the internet for the greatest dash cams, it helps to have a short list of preferences. For example, do you want the camera to have a front facing camera only or front and back facing cameras? Do you want higher resolution? Do you want to hardwire it into your fuse box instead of plugging it into a 12V outlet? Do you want it to record audio? These are all things to consider. As a starting point, I will give you my opinion on the bare bone necessities for a dash cam.
If you are purchasing a dash cam simply to protect yourself in the case of an insurance claim, then I recommend a 1080p front facing camera only that plugs easily into whatever outlet is available in your car. The Thinkware F200 is a good quality and easy to use mid-tier camera. You can find cheaper alternatives like this Ainhyzic, but you risk either getting poor video quality or difficult app connectivity. Plan on spending at least $100 for a decent camera with good specs and convenient functionality. The Z-Edge 1080p Dash Cam, Nexar Beam, and Garmin Mini are all good options within the $100-$150 price range. If you want all the bells and whistles, then the slightly more expensive Garmin 67W would be a good option.
Most cameras have G-force measuring tools which can determine when an accident occurs and lock the previous few minutes of footage so it doesn’t get overwritten before you can pull it from the SD card. This is a good feature to have but is not necessary. Most dash cams will automatically overwrite old recordings with new footage while you’re driving, simply for convenience, but be sure to go with a larger SD card so you get as much recording time as possible. 32GB is a good compromise for most people. The higher the resolution, though, the more memory is necessary. Another thing to consider is if you want your dash cam to have a screen on it. Most cameras connect via bluetooth or wi-fi to your smartphone, so the screen becomes more of a redundancy, but it is entirely up to the purchaser.
Once you determine your specs, do your research and find a good, reliable brand which has quality customer reviews, and which is compatible with your vehicle setup. Then set aside some time to install and learn how it works before taking it on a drive.
Rear Facing Cameras Are Typically Unnecessary
Because the camera is used primarily to remove you from fault in the case of an accident, having a backwards facing camera is not necessary. Getting rear ended is almost always the rear vehicle’s fault, and if you drive anything but a small sports car, that rear-facing camera probably won’t catch enough of the action to make much of a difference in a reversing accident. However, if you drive for Uber or Lyft, a dash cam that faces backwards could protect yourself from liability if your guests get too rowdy and try to claim something happened that did not.
Ultimately, dash cams are the best way to reduce liability in an accident that wasn’t your fault, which can save you a deductible and lots of time waiting for vehicle repairs. Having been a claims adjuster, I have plenty of horror stories of customers who could not get their car fixed because the accident had turned into a he-said-she-said situation. Don’t let that happen to you. Take control and protect yourself and your family. That’s what a dash cam is all about.