Dash Cameras: An Educational Guide

Driving on the highway can be dangerous if you’re not careful. In 2007, over 25.2 automotive related accidents per 1,000 people occurred in Russia. Now that dash cameras are more affordable customers are investing in the device for increased video evidence.

As a driver, you should invest in a dash camera for your own safety. These small, yet utility devices continuously records footage while subtly being placed above your dashboard. In this article, you will find out how dash cameras are a valuable tool that can potentially save you thousands.

What Is A Dash Cam?

As its name suggests, a dash cam is a camera that’s placed on your car’s dashboard. It continuously records through a car’s widescreen. Dash cams can be attached to the top of a dashboard or an interior windscreen via adhesive tape mounts or suction cups.

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Dash cams are useful because they provide video evidence of car accidents. When parking, the dash cam system can detect signs of vandalism. With a dedicated parking system, the camera has a motion detection sensor that can record when the car is off.

How Does It Work?

Before planning on buying a dash cam, it's important to know how they function. Unlike traditional recording devices, dash cameras have a straightforward design and purpose. They are made solely to record and don’t have fancy features such as recording control and power switches.

  • In fact, the average basic dashboard camera contains the following components:
  • Removable or built-in storage media
  • Power inputs
  • A Video Camera

Since it lacks an on/off switch, dash cameras are connected to a circuit key. The circuit key heats up when the ignition key is on the run or start position. Because they don’t have recording controls, dash cams record continuously once powered up.

Having that in mind, you can understand how dash cameras can automatically turn on and begin recording each time the car is on - without the need for interaction or input from the driver.

These recording features can be contrasted with general purpose recording devices. While you can use almost any recording device (cameras,), you will have to configure it and turn it on record each time you start the car.

Imagine getting involved in a car accident. With a dash cam, you can receive a first-person view recording of what occurred. Instead of physically moving a traditional camera, the dash camera records the events without you placing yourself in harm’s way.

Loop Recording

Loop recording is the process of recording audio continuously towards a memory card. It’s a never-ending process: located in the internal disk drive, it continues to record recent footage while deleting previously recorded material and replacing it with new content.

The process assumes that the “oldest video footage” found on a memory card has no use, and can be deleted once the memory card is full. To do this, there are multiple loop recording options that detail how much total (in minutes) of the video can be deleted the more the journey continues.

Deleting a portion of the video file is impossible while it's recording, so the dash camera creates small video files whose length is determined in the settings.

For instance, if the loop setting for recording is 2 minutes, then the dash camera will create a video that’s 2 minutes in length. To keep space, it will delete older 2-minute videos to keep it continuously recording.

This is a great feature because your camera records every second you’re on the road after the memory card reaches full capacity. The only downside is that you’ll have to save the videos from your memory card to your computer before the dash camera deletes the data. Still, dash cameras are good highway emergency cameras due to their constant recording.

Timestamps

When the time and date of an event is recorded, it’s been timestamped. Timestamps are important because they document information that’s been created, deleted, or exchanged. In most scenarios, these record are good for us to know. But in some cases, timestamps are more valuable.

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For instance, during a car accident, a timestamp date the videos [October 10, 2009, 00:21:30]. This means that at 21 minutes of recording, the car accident happens. On October 10th, the accident happens, and the dash cam has received footage of the event.

Why You Need Dash Cams

No matter if you’re a casual driver, or a professional trucker who is on the road frequently, a dash camera is an essential safety device. Here are some of the main reasons why you should invest in a dash camera today:

Security Frauds

On road insurance scams have increased recently. Security frauds cost owners up to $40 billion per year. Because of this fact, you need to have a dash camera each time that you drive as a form of legal protection.

The most common example of fraud occurs when a driver is on the highway when the driver presses the brakes to slow down their vehicle. A dash camera can record the entire incident, which serves as proof of evidence when sent to the insurance company.

You need a dash camera to make your accident reports accurate. The camera allows the company to see who was the fault party during the accident. As a result, you’ll receive reimbursement on your insurance claim due to the dash camera’s accurate recording.

Parking Accidents

Let’s face it; parking accidents occur often. The following table details how parking lot related accidents are correlated with over 5,000 injuries a year.

Event

Injuries

Fatalities

Pedestrian hit by Driverless Vehicle

5

500

Pedestrian in Non-Traffic Crash by Backing Vehicle

99

2,000

Non-Traffic Crash by Moving Vehicle

106

3,000

Total (estimate)

210

5,500

Many dash cameras come with a parking mode feature. Powered by motion sensor technology, the camera’s parking mode saves energy by only turning on when an object is in its vicinity. With this feature, it spots who is attempting to damage the vehicle and records them instantly.

Reporting Undisciplined Drivers

Almost every driver has at least one bad encounter with a reckless driver on the road. This is a common problem that happens in everyone’s driving career. Not only are these irresponsible and reckless drivers very annoying and bothersome, but they also put the lives of innocent passengers and drivers in danger.

But, reporting their behavior can be a challenging task as it requires physical proof - If you don’t have an eyewitness, the case will end up dismissed. Fortunately, with a dash camera, you have complete footage of the driver’s behavior; making it easier to report them after the accident.

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A dash camera can be used to report multiple types of disorderly driving behavior. You can use it for drivers who text and drive, or drunk drivers who are a threat to traffic. Get one to report negative driving conduct to ensure that you remain safe while on the road.

Perfect For Driving Instructors

Dash cameras are standard recording tools for driving instructors. They are used to help improve their pupil's learning experience by accurately measuring their driving performance. With dash cameras, Instructors can explain their student’s mistakes through clear video recordings.

Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) can use dash cameras to protect themselves from unexpected events such as student misconduct. Placed on the front and rear sections of a vehicle, dash cameras can spot their behavior and is used to report abusive pupils.

Recording Your Drive

Dash cameras are great for drivers who like to monitor their performance. Once installed, the dash camera records your driving, which helps you take note of the mistakes you might have made.

After seeing your recordings, you can start making adjustments to your previous driving behavior. Dash cameras are great for younger drivers who are still unsure about their driving technique. Use a dash camera to watch your mistakes and learn gradually each time you use it.

Dash Cam Specs

You should understand the specs of your dash cam before buying one. Doing so allows you to buy one that’s suited to your needs. Does your camera have GPS? Does it have both front and rear entry videos? Keep these questions in mind when getting your first dash cam.

Video Quality

Currently, dash cameras have good video quality, even at cheap price points. As a rule of thumb, a good dash cam will have a balance between file size and video quality. This is because dash cameras have a limited memory card space and high bitrates will cause overheating.

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Higher end cameras have better sensors, processes, firmware, lens, and processors to create better video quality. Some dash cameras can reach up to 1440p resolution with 60 frames per second to produce smoother recordings.

In general, you should get a dash camera with a 720p resolution or higher. Cameras at this range create clear images of whoever is in front or around it. Doing this ensures that you’ll gain a better view of the road and accurate evidence once an accident happens.

Power Supply

Your dash camera gains its power through its wiring system. These are the three most common wiring system you’ll find:

  • Basic Hardwiring Kits: Basic hardwiring kits can be as simple as wires that must be fused and connected to a female cigarette socket. Or, they can be complicated and consist of a transformer to replace the need for a car adapter. Most kits come with an inline fuse to protect your car and dash camera from electrical damage.
  • Programmable Hardwiring Kits: Programmable kits is the preferred choice for most drivers. Most kits offer voltage cut-off and timer settings that are higher than the low 11.6V settings found in basic kits. Advanced devices have features such as manual on/off switches and temperature protection.
  • Battery Hardwiring Kits: These kits use a lithium ion phosphate material (LiFePO4) to increase the reliability and safe in hot weather. They include thermal protection to automatically turn the power off when the device is overheating.

When shopping, choose the power supply that’s suited to your car. Doing so ensures that your camera will run properly once you start driving.

Lens Quality

The quality of your lens depends on if you need to record out of the front or back of your windshield. While some users opt for a front windshield camera, many dash cameras come with rear view cameras for added security.

I Want To Record From My Front Windshield

Most dash cameras are placed on the windshield; the camera faces towards the road and records ahead of you, then it records only the outside of your car. Specifically, these cameras are known as single-lens dash cams because they only hold one lens.

Single lens dash cams are the most basic and common type of dash cam and are a great way to get introduced and protect yourself from the hazards of driving.

I Want To Record From Different/Multiple Angles

If you want to know what’s happening inside your vehicle or behind you, then a dual-lens camera is the best option. This dash cam includes two “channels” or video lens and records out of both at the same time.

This type of camera is good for professional drivers who drive with added caution. Dash cameras are good for Uber/Lyft drivers, deliverymen, parents of teenagers, and other rideshare drivers.

One advantage of this camera is that it can be placed anywhere inside your car. Unlike single lens cameras, dual lens cameras can record outside the driver’s window and keep an eye out for cargo and tools that are placed elsewhere in your vehicle.

Position On Dashboard

Most people prefer having a stealthy dash camera to reduce unwanted attention. So you might want to buy one that’s small and fits within your car’s dimensions.

Previously, consumer-based dash cameras had a more flashy design, with silver/chrome highlights to appear of higher quality. Now, dash cameras have a discreet and black design to prevent possible car theft.

These cameras have a small LCD display; meaning that you’ll have to use an external device like your smartphone or computer. Depending on your preference, you can go for a stylish or subtle dash camera.

G Shock Sensor

Recently, a plethora of dash cameras on the market now consist of G-Shock Technology. Once the camera detects sudden movement, it will automatically lock the video file. This prevents the video from getting overwritten during looped recordings.

If your car brakes heavily or skids, then the camera makes sure that the footage is kept until you decide to delete it.

G Shock Sensors measures your vehicle’s movement by up to three axes - up and down, forwards and backwards, and left and right. This provides you the benefit of recording what’s necessary and keeping it in storage.

But, G Shock sensors have a downside. Due to their sensitive motion triggers, the camera might record harmless jolts to the car (ex. Driving over a soccer ball) by accident. G Shock sensors operate on the saying “better safe than sorry”; ensuring that you and your passengers stay safe once you start driving.

Maintenance And Installation

After buying your first dash camera, you still have to maintain it properly. This increases the lifespan of your device while also preventing it from ongoing damage (scratches, software malfunctions, etc.).

Here are some tips to help you properly take care of your dash camera.

  • Replacing MicroSD Cards: Dash cameras constantly write and read data on your microSD card. On average, your microSD card has a lifespan of 1-1.5 years. Therefore, you should check and change your microSD card annually to maintain reliability.
  • Formatting: Most problems with video quality can easily be fixed with formatting. We recommend that you reformat the microSD card once a week. This ensures that card works and helps your dash camera produce footage for automotive evidence.
  • Utilizing Capable Storage: Each dash cam has a maximum capacity in external storage. We suggest that 128GB cards use only 64GB of its data. This is because microSD cards take longer to delete older videos due to the increased space. Don’t max out your capable storage to ensure that your dash camera runs correctly.

How To Install A Dash Cam

Installing a dash camera takes less than an hour total. All you have to do is position the camera, set up its software, and start recording. Follow these steps if you want to install your dash camera onto your vehicle.

Position The Camera

You should try different positions and camera angles for your dash cam. We suggest placing the dash camera somewhere that’s arm’s length, but not in a location that blocks your view of the upcoming road.

Find And Identify Your Fuses

Using your owner’s manual, find the location of the camera’s internal fuse box. This is usually found on the driver’s side of the vehicle. You might need a tool to access the internal fuse box. After finding the box, you have to find the fuse map.

A fuse map is a diagram that describes what each fuse does. And, it shows you the fuse’s relative location in relation to the device. This simplifies the installation process and ensures that you don’t pull an air bag fuse.

Finally, you have to identify what type of fuse you’re going to use. Once you’ve done that, then you’re ready to install the power cable. If you’re unsure on how to do so, don’t hesitate to get a professional for extra assistance.

Install The Power Cable/Hardwiring Kit

Start this step by completely shutting off your vehicle. If the hardwiring kit has an on/off switch, it should be turned off especially if your battery is still connected.

Next, you must secure the fuse onto the vehicle. If you aren’t using a fuse tap, wrap the wire tightly around the fuse leg. You want to make sure it's on the side where it stops receiving power once the fuse blows.

Look for an unpainted screw or bolt that’s apart from your vehicle’s body. With a multimeter, check to see if the screws aren’t attached to plastic parts. This prevents a fire or other damage from damaging your car.

If the hard-wiring kit contains a female cigarette outlet, then you’ll want to plug in the camera’s power adapter. Then it’s a matter of routing your camera cables to remain organized.

Cleaning Up

After step 3, you probably have wires hanging throughout your car. You’ll want to secure the kit so that the wires don’t strain the connections while staying out of site. Once you’ve completed this step, you’re ready to drive with your brand new dash camera!

How To Download Videos From Your Dash Cam

Dash cameras can easily transfer video files onto your computer. Follow these steps to download videos from your camera to your device. Remember, if your camera’s resolution is too high, lower it to make the downloading process easier.

Remove the Memory Card - This step will vary depending on your dash camera. Make sure that the dash camera is turned OFF and your car is parked before taking out the memory card.

Place Memory Card Into the Adapter - This step is for Micro SD cards only. Insert the Micro SD card that comes with the adapter. Some memory card readers will directly install the Micro SD without needing the adapter.

Video Files Onto PC - Once the memory card is read, an “Autoplay” window will show up. Select “Open folder to view files.” With your computer mouse, left-click and drag your video files onto your computer. We recommend placing them into the “Videos” folder on your computer for better organization.

Conclusion

With dash cameras, multiple accidents are recorded for better representation during trial. Buying one ensures that you’ll have the right evidence to back up your claim. However, there are still a few things that first-time buyers tend to forget.

While you may know everything there is about dash cameras, you still need to determine a good one from a great one. We invite you to look into our buying guide to learn about the best dash cameras available that also fits your budget.


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