Between potholes, crime, and rule-breakers, driving in South Africa can be downright dangerous.
Accidents are becoming increasingly common on local roads, and even minor incidents can be a headache to resolve.
Even if you were not the cause of an accident, you would still need to rely on the testimony of eyewitnesses to substantiate your claims.
For this reason, many South Africans are now turning to dashcams as a solution to their traffic woes. Dashcams are powered by your vehicle’s battery and record video (and sometimes sound) constantly.
Depending on the model, these dashboard-mounted cameras can also automatically save recorded video to an inserted SD card upon detecting an impact or sudden stop.
MyBroadband spoke to Arrive Alive, Justice Project South Africa, and Garmin about the effectiveness of dashcams for South African motorists.
Arrive Alive editor Johan Jonck told MyBroadband that dashcams are invaluable for both insurance and legal proceedings.
“Too often without evidence, it becomes a he says she says scenario, the dashcam will easily ensure that the evidence speaks for itself,” Jonck said.
“It can be excellent evidentiary proof in court and a tool to bring perpetrators to justice.”
He added that a dashcam can also be used for post-crash analysis and even prevent distracted driving if it monitors the driver in addition to the road.
Jonck said that South African drivers should definitely install dashcams in their vehicles.
“Sadly, we also need to admit that crime is always a factor to consider – and this includes crime in the traffic enforcement environment.”
Jonck said cameras could help prevent altercations with traffic officers emanating from the desire to solicit a bribe from a motorist.
Justice Project South Africa
Justice Project South Africa chairman Howard Dembovsky said the presence of dashcam footage could mean the difference between an insurance claim being approved or not.
“Also bear in mind that if you are one of the approximately 70% of motorists who don’t have insurance, such video footage could assist you in getting the other party to pay,” Dembovsky said.
“Be warned however that video footage can equally prove that you were the culpable party, so always drive defensively and strictly within the framework of the law.”
Dembovsky said drivers should consider a number of factors before deciding to purchase a dashcam for their vehicle.
“Owning a dash/helmet camera can be of immense value in proving that the actions of another person or factors other than your own negligence led to a crash you become involved in.”
“But what about the situation where a law enforcement official accuses you of disobeying a road traffic sign/marking, speeding and so on? What about the situation many motorists face where cops actively solicit bribes from them?”
“When it’s your word against a cop’s the likelihood of your side of the story just being accepted is quite low, but if the situation is recorded on video, there can be no doubt about what happened,” he said.
Dembovsky noted that it is strange not a single insurance company in South Africa requires or encourages South Africans to install a dashcam on their vehicle, despite the value of the evidence for proving claims.
He added that buyers should not buy cheap dashcam models. “A relatively good dashcam will set you back somewhere in the region of R3,500,” Dembovsky said.
Garmin South Africa automotive category manager Mathys Thompson told MyBroadband that high-quality dashcam footage should be able to prove where culpability lies in the event of an accident.
“With the presence of high quality HD dashcam footage, that is stamped with the exact time, date, coordinates, and the speed a user was travelling at, the footage will clearly show who was in the wrong,” Thompson said.
“Things happen in the blink of an eye, and witnesses do not always capture the whole event as they need to often reach for a phone, unlock it, activate the camera, switch to video, and start recording.”
Thompson described a dashcam as an eyewitness which never blinks, and records the lead-up to an incident in addition to the actual event and its aftermath.
“In addition to video, dashcams also record audio in the vehicle – recording the conversations had with individuals inside or next to the vehicle.”