The dashcam is the latest must-have gadget for the car, with experts believing it could soon be as popular as the satnav.
A key appeal of the gadget is that it can knock up to 20 per cent off the cost of your motor insurance. This is because it can be used to help with a claim if you are ever involved in an accident, saving a small fortune on legal fees if there is a dispute.
It can also be used to foil insurance scams. Earlier this month, a cyclist threw himself in front of a car in Nottingham but his actions were caught on the driver’s dash-cam – the cyclist got up and walked away after realising he had been filmed.
Image conscious: Samantha Cowan says displaying her dashcam encourages others to drive more safely
His humiliating antics became an internet hit when posted on YouTube. Such scams cost the insurance industry £36 million a year – a bill picked up by motorists through higher premiums.
Already, 4.5 million of the 30 million motorists in Britain have installed one of these dashboard cameras to record what is happening ahead of them on the road.
According to motoring organisation the AA, this figure may double in the next couple of years if, as predicted, motor manufacturers start installing them in new cars. Within a decade, most drivers will probably be using a dashcam. Four years ago only 300,000 drivers had one.
Samantha Cowan, 31, from Camberley in Surrey, has a £130 Nextbase dashcam installed in her Volkswagen Golf.
Although it has not cut the cost of her £600 annual insurance policy with Admiral, she believes it has stopped nearby motorists driving dangerously – and also acts as an effective deterrent to insurance scammers.
The account manager says: ‘If someone has been tailgating or cuts me up I simply point to the camera when they pass and it has an immediate effect – they often give a friendly wave and drive on carefully, aware they have been caught on camera.’
Improved technology means dashcams are becoming more affordable. They can be purchased for between £30 and £200 and are easy to install. They usually come with a suction pad that attaches to the windscreen behind the rear view mirror and can then be plugged into a car charge socket.
The device usually records on an hour-long loop – or restarts every new journey.
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If you are involved in an incident you simply stop the device to ensure everything that has happened is left on the memory.
With the average annual cost of motor insurance now more than £820 this means a dashcam can pay for itself within just a year – if its installation results in a 20 per cent reduction in the cost of premiums.
The camera is particularly useful if you are involved in an accident where the other driver disputes blame. Comparison website uSwitch says a quarter of innocent drivers are unable to prove an accident was not their fault – but if they had installed a dashcam it could be used as evidence to ensure they do not get penalised by their insurer.
Motorists can expect to see their fully comprehensive car insurance cover double if they are found responsible for a crash. A dashcam can also help you protect a no- claims discount.
Only a handful of insurers currently offer a discount to those who have fitted a dashcam, but their number is expected to rise. Those insurers prepared to discount premiums include Swiftcover, SureThing! and Adrian Flux. The insurers say the dashcam cuts premiums by between 10 and 20 per cent.
Popular: 4.5 million drivers already have a dashcam
Luke Bosdet, of the AA, says: ‘About 15 per cent of our members now have a dashcam but 30 per cent are looking to use one in the future.
‘The next step is when car manufacturers start including them as extras or standard. In the future it is quite possible they will be just as common as satnavs in the car.’
The satnav is now used by four out of five motorists – 24 million drivers – after being introduced in the late 1990s. It uses a satellite-based global positioning system to pinpoint where vehicles are on the road – doing away with the need for arguments in the car over map reading.
Bosdet adds: ‘Many motoring incidents are not clear-cut. A dashcam can be the answer in settling insurance disputes and claims.
‘If footage proves the other driver was at fault you may avoid paying any insurance excess. Evidence can also be used to protect a no-claims discount. It also deters car thieves and acts as a deterrent to stop scammers.’
In Wales, the police are starting to use dashcam footage recorded by the public to investigate driving offences such as jumping traffic lights. If successful it may eventually be rolled out nationally.
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