Dash cams are an increasingly common fixture in today's cars, but do they offer any added benefit beyond peace of mind?
While advent of 360-degree cameras, internet connectivity and all-round sensors on modern cars has arguably improved road safety no end, accidents still happen – although now, it's a lot easier to tell who's at fault.
For the uninitiated, dash cams are either external or in-built video devices which record events happening around a car at any given moment.
According to dash cam manufacturer Nextbase, one in four Australians already use a dash cam to record their driving, and 26 per cent of Australian drivers admitted that they modify their driving behaviour when they are aware a dash cam may be recording.
Increasingly, footage from dash cams is being used to prove fault in insurance claims – and even, occasionally, to catch thieves or assist police investigations.
No discounts – but plenty of potential perks
But while they certainly assist in identifying who is at fault in an accident, dash cams are yet to be incentivised by most Australian insurers.
"Most insurers will not factor in the installation and use of a dash cam in pricing a policy because the dashcam doesn’t actually reduce the risk of something unexpected happening that could lead to a claim," explained Lisa Kable, Communications Manager for the Insurance Council of Australia.
However, footage from a dash cam could be instrumental in capturing key data from the other driver, or ensuring you avoid any pesky additional costs post-accident.
"Dash cam footage may be used as part of a claim but it’s only one piece of the puzzle and you still need important details like the other party’s registration and contact details. But it certainly goes a way to determining who’s at fault with the outcome that the not-at-fault driver may keep their no-claim bonus and not have to pay their excess," Ms Kable said.
In CarAdvice's own investigations, representatives for a number of Australian insurers confirmed they offered no initial incentive for drivers with dash cams, but a handful said the claims process was substantially aided by dash cam footage.
"We don’t offer a specific discount for dashcams. However, we encourage customers to provide us with any dashcam footage to help us determine who is at fault following an accident," said a spokesperson for IAG – parent company of NRMA Insurance, CGU, SGIO, SGIC, Swann Insurance, WFI and Poncho Insurance.
"This can help save a customer from having to pay an excess if they didn’t cause the accident and the details of the driver are known.
"They can also be extremely valuable for customers when their car has been hit in a carpark, and the other driver hasn’t done the right thing and provided their details."
A Youi spokesperson agreed that dash cam footage is usually a welcome part of the claiming process, explaining: "Youi doesn’t provide discounts as such, however dash cams can assist in proving a driver is not at fault and therefore avoid having to pay an excess."
Tim Buckett, the Executive General Manager of Suncorp Group, which includes insurance brands AAMI, GIO, Shannons and Apia), told CarAdvice dash cams can often be just as important as eyewitnesses in an accident.
"In some cases dash cam footage is more valuable than witness statements, especially if it is clear and captures the direct cause of an accident," Mr Buckett said.
"Car insurance premiums are calculated based on a variety of factors that impact risk. While dash cams assist in identifying the cause of an accident they don’t lessen the risk of them occurring."
What to look for when buying a dash cam
According to Ms Kable, there are a few key features and capabilities any good dash cam should have. These include:
- High-resolution recording: "It’s important to get a dash cam with a quality picture – some can be pixelated so you have difficulty clearly seeing the registration of other vehicles."
- 360-degree view: "You need a camera with a 360-degree view because you want a camera that captures rear end or side impact incidents, which make up 40 per cent of motor vehicle crash claims."
- Park mode: "Also look for a dashcam that has a park mode which helps in shopping centre bingles."
- Time and location info: "You also want one with GPS that shows date and time and even direction and location."