With news earlier this week that Operation Snap will now be extended to cover all of Wales, the use of dash cams as a means for bringing prosecutions against drivers is once again at the forefront of public discussion.
No longer are speed cameras and traffic police the only threat to mischievous motorists- dash cam footage which was once used for insurance purposes or used as evidence in a police investigation is now in itself cause to initiate an investigation and a prosecution.
With the small devices having skyrocketed in popularity with an increase in sales suggested at nearly 1000% back in 2015, possibly due to high profile cases of dash cams being used to the advantage of wronged drivers, police forces in England have followed the lead forces in Wales in saying that they will accept footage taken on drivers’ personal dashboard cameras as a means to bring prosecutions against drivers shown to be driving unacceptably.
The move comes as a reduction in officer numbers means that it has become necessary to look for alternative ways of safeguarding drivers and it seems these cameras, available for around £60 a piece, could hold the key to the future of Road Traffic Enforcement.
Drivers are encouraged to report incidents caught on dash cameras but warned that they must be willing to give evidence in court and provide a statement along with their footage.
Drivers looking to install a dash cam on their vehicle should however be mindful of the possibility of self-incrimination as the footage can be seized from the vehicle of an at-fault driver and used as evidence against them. Whilst the speed settings can be switched off on most models there will be no escaping incriminating video evidence of reckless manoeuvres or traffic light offences. Ideally the increase in popularity of the cameras will therefore encourage drivers to be more mindful of their own driving as a result of the dash cams in their own vehicles as well as due to the concern of being clocked on another driver’s dash cam.
However charity IAM RoadSmart has warned that dash cams may not actually yield any increase in prosecutions of dangerous driving but still bring a decrease in visible traffic patrols as officers spend more time analysing the influx of amateur dash cam footage. The problem with the move is that dash cam footage often does not show the full picture of an incident and it is often too short and poor quality so that it fails to show how an incident developed or shows it only from a restrictive poor angle. The charity is therefore calling for guidelines on the standard of dash cam footage required to bring about a prosecution, how the public should submit the footage and how the police can use it.
The potential of using dash cams in improving road safety and increasing prosecutions is yet unyielding however for now motorists are warned that a dash-cam isn’t a quick fix and the focus should be on their own driving standards and not solely policing those of others. A dash cam serves as an evidential life line in the instances where poor driving has already taken place and IAM RoadSmart is emphasising that we must not become distracted from the fact that accident prevention requires better driver training, personal responsibility and tackling learned attitudes and behaviours.
If you have committed a motoring offence and need some advice contact our experienced road transport team at Keep Me On The Road on 0800 046 3066