If you’re a denizen of the Youtube community, or even just browse videos once in a while, you’ve probably found yourself watching some absolutely baffling videos, from parodies to rants to art school films. A perennial favorite for Youtubers across the globe is footage from Russian dash cams.
For Americans, dash cams are usually limited to cop cars and highway patrol, and most citizens don’t have one in their car. Of course, some do, but by and large the concept of having a dash cam for a regular citizen is a little strange. In Russia, on the other hand, about 1 million people have dash cams in their cars. Why are dash cams so common in Russia?
There are some benefits to dash cams that come around once in a blue moon, like capturing footage of a meteor exploding in the atmosphere; dash cam footage of 2013’s meteor explosion proliferated around the internet quickly. But the number one reason for dash cams in Russia is pure, simple justice: when you have video proof of the circumstances of an accident, as well as a documentation of the license plate, you have a much greater chance of getting recompense when wronged on the road.
Al Jazeera investigated the phenomenon in 2012 and interviewed some motorists who use dash cams whenever they drive. People gave some compelling reasons for taking the extra precaution, including a lack of faith in the Russian police officers, notorious for bending or breaking all the rules in order to procure bribes and line their coffers. Dash cams protect the driver from being given the run-around by a corrupt policeman. Others are concerned for their own safety, and opt for a dash cam instead of carrying a weapon with them.
Russia has a high occurrence of hit and run accidents, which has led to many insurance companies denying claims that don’t have sufficient evidence. The insurance problem is further complicated by the high rates of insurance fraud in Russia. Unreliable witnesses are no help in the courtroom when it comes to vehicular accidents, so if you need evidence of wrong-doing you need to have a dash cam capturing every moment of the crash.
A dash cam will record continuously while it’s in use, and once the memory has been filled it re-sets, erasing the footage to store new footage. Footage from a dash cam can be retrieved and used as evidence in the event of an accident. It’s cheaper than expensive insurance policies, and can save drivers thousands of dollars in the long run.
In case you’re wondering what’s so funny about the Russian dash cam phenomena, here’s a great example. In this video, a man confronting another driven gets treated very unkindly by a gang of cartoon characters, including America’s favorite yellow sponge, apparently on vacation from Bikini Bottom.