Consumer Reports - Gadget hounds have a new toy to add to their list: dash cams. Once used only by police, they are making their way into cars of consumers.
U.S. wholesale shipments are expected to rise 15 percent and projected to generate $68 million in revenue this year. And there's a good reason: they can help protect you.
Imagine accidentally hitting a pedestrian who suddenly ran in front of your moving car when you had the right of way, being rammed by another vehicle, or being pulled over by a policeman for no apparent reason. You know you did nothing wrong, but how do you prove it?
A dash cam can provide evidence and be used by an insurance company to prove that you weren't liable. Most insurance companies will accept dash cam video from their policyholders to assist in a claim. The gadgets are also useful in disputes about racial profiling by police and can come in handy if your car is damaged while parked.
They're legal - as long as you record what's going on outside the car on public roads.
Inside the car is another matter. If someone gets in your car, because of privacy laws it's important that you inform them that they're also being recorded because it really varies from state to state whether that's legal or not.
So, what should you look for in a dash cam? Consumer Reports compiled a list of essential features you'll need. Providing detailed images is key, so get a high-definition cam with a resolution of at least 1080p. Also important: low light capability for when it's dark outside. Get one with ample storage - at least 32 gigabytes - to preserve footage. And make sure it comes with long loop times - five-minute files are best - so you don't record over essential footage.
Dash cams can give you peace of mind, but don't forget your own video can also be used against you. It's important to note that there is generally no legal obligation to save your video. However, destroying it could lead to legal complications in the case of a criminal investigation or civil action.
Also be aware that some states including Pennsylvania have laws prohibiting or restricting electronic devices on the front windshield.
--All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org.
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