DENVER - As more drivers use consumer dashboard cameras, video evidence is playing a crucial role in serious accident investigations.
Drivers who use them see the cameras as a way to protect themselves during disputes, however, the cameras can end up working against camera owners if they cause a serious crash.
“The street runs both ways,” said 9NEWS Legal Analyst Scott Robinson. “Yes, you can use it to prove your side of a dispute, but it may be used against you to show you were at fault.”
Denver Police told 9Wants to Know about a case in which they filed a search warrant for man’s dashboard camera footage after he caused a hit-and-run crash. While police weren’t able to find footage in that particular incident, the effort by law enforcement to acquire video reveals the cameras can potentially work against a camera owner.
Initially becoming common in Russia because of rampant insurance fraud, consumer dashboard cameras are emerging more often in the U.S. as major electronics brands see a demand among people who want to protect themselves.
“We’re just starting to see more of them involved in the crashes we do investigate,” said Aurora Officer Al Graham, who works in traffic investigations. “They’re an investigative tool for us.”
In 2014, Phil Rosengberg-Watt’s dashboard camera proved to be useful for Denver Police. After witnessing a crash, he turned over footage he captured on his dash camera to investigators. His footage is cited as one of the first local accident investigations in which a dash camera helped police figure out who was at fault.
In the footage, the driver of a pickup is seen colliding with a Cadillac in an intersection, resulting in serious injuries. The pickup driver claimed the oncoming Cadillac changed lanes, but the dashboard camera remembered differently. The pickup driver was ultimately charged after video showed him not yielding.
“I’m glad I could help,” Rosenberg-Watt said. “Eyewitnesses, as humans, maybe we’re not so reliable.”
The driver of the Cadillac was charged with DUI too, after admitting to police he was drunk and high on marijuana and cocaine.
For now, there aren’t any known insurance companies that offer incentives or discounts with dashboard camera usage, however that could change if the technology proves useful. Footage could help with insurance hassles.
“This is really another tool that could speed up the claims process,” said Carole Walker of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.
While you may not have any desire to own a dashboard camera, the likelihood of your driving being recorded increases as more enthusiasts use footage to shame bad drivers.
Online, doing a search of “dash cam,” brings up thousands of crashes and near-misses from all over the world.
In Colorado, Josh Schaffer runs the YouTube channel Denver Dash Cam. His videos feature people running red lights and even a truck that accidentally dumped a load of rocks in the middle of the road.
“As soon as I got dash cams, I knew I was going to catch clips like this. I just wanted a place to put them and share them,” Schaffer said.
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