One day, the world's roads will become flawless flows of automated Google and Audi cars that never, ever crash. Until then, what you probably need is a dash cam, also known as a digital drive recorder.
That's because anything can and does happen out there on the roads. In western nations, mercifully, accident rates are constantly falling as are serious casualty rates. But we're still a long way off either actually being rare.
Meanwhile, road-accident related fraud remains a massive issue, with crews of criminals drawing innocent road users into minor accidents courtesy of what's known as the 'flash-for-cash' scam.
In simple terms, criminals flash their headlights at other drivers to indicate they are letting them out of junctions or side roads, only to crash into them on purpose. By the strict letter of the highway code in the UK, for instance, it's the car pulling out that's at fault. You, in other words.
Accidents will happen
Of course, bona fide accidents happen all the time too, and proving fault can often be very hard indeed. Even when one or other party is willing to concede fault, their insurer may have other thoughts and the net result could be a stiff financial penalty through no fault of your own. Put simply, without third party witnesses it's frequently not possible to prove who was responsible for a given accident.
Unless, that is, you have a digital camera on board that automatically records the whole incident. Suddenly, all the cards are in your hands. That said, you should also be aware that in the event of a serious accident, your drive recorder could incriminate you just as much as another driver. A drive recorder is not loyal to its owner: it merely records what happens.
Still, with a dash cam you can provide the police with valuable evidence of any accident you witness, even if you're not involved. So, there's arguably a civic angle, too.
There are more reasons to consider a dash cam and they don't all involve driving. Some models are capable of detecting when a stationary car has been dinged in a minor parking-lot misdemeanour, giving you a chance of identifying any hit-and-run perps.
With all of this, it's worth bearing in mind that a single forward-facing dash cam cannot cover all contingencies. It won't necessarily help much in the event of a rear-end shunt, for instance, in a parking lot or on the road. However, it is possible to fit multiple cameras to cover off most angles - obviously this pushes up complexity and cost, mind.
Save on insurance
The final major benefit could mean a dash cam pays for itself even if you never have an accident. Several insurers in the UK, including Swiftcover and AdrianFlux, offer up to 15% discounts on premiums for users of dashcams.
Depending on your annual premium, you might recoup the cost of a dashcam within a single year. Interesting, eh? Just remember that insurers typically have lists of approved dash cams, so you can't just pop out and buy any old model. Make sure it's one that's recognised by your policy provider.
Anyway, we're betting you're now keen to know how they work, what's available, what features you should be looking for and how much they cost.
How dash cams work
The basics involve a small digital camera that mounts to your car's screen or dash via a cradle and suction cup. Power can either be provided by a USB/12V cable or you have the option of professional fitting which will involve a dedicated power cable being routed, typically, through the header rail around the windscreen. The latter costs a bit more but is a neater solution that keeps cable clutter to a minimum.