Are Dash Cams a Good Idea?

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Art Ginter originally bought his dashcam so that he could show his family some of the places he goes and some of the sights he sees. He never thought it would save his bacon and be instrumental in getting charges laid against an encroaching driver. You’ve probably seen the YouTube video: Ginter’s brand new T660 Kenworth comes around a corner on two-lane Highway 11 just outside of Nipigon, Ont., and there’s a Freightliner coming the other way attempting to pass a snowplow. It’s snowing and there’s not much room on the shoulder.

Any driver watching this video can’t help but gasp. The opposing driver makes no attempt to pull back and a collision looks inevitable. Somehow Ginter manages to steer his rig and his cargo of eggs to the shoulder and bring it to rest after bumping alongside a series of cable and posts that kept him from going over a serious embankment.

I reached Ginter by cell phone somewhere in Washington State, on his way to Vancouver, B.C., and asked him what would have been different if the event hadn’t been recorded on his dash cam. “I would have been found at fault (by the insurance company) and I wouldn’t have got my deductible back.” His KW sustained $25,000 damage and the towing bill was another $2,500.

According to Ginter, the plow driver called in the incident right away assuming there had been a collision between two heavy trucks, but in actual fact there was no contact between the two rigs. OPP were looking for a truck involved in the collision but assumed there would be damage to this vehicle. Hence, the OPP had stopped a man driving a blue Freightliner but didn’t know he was the perpetrator at the time. But this guy was on the police record of having been stopped, and after some good sleuthing, most probably with the aid of the dash cam video, the cops laid three charges on a fellow from Milton, Ont., on Feb 12 (Ginter was run off the road on Jan. 4/2014). 31 year old Akmal Hayat is charged with careless driving, failing to report an accident and failing to remain on the scene.

The fact that the video went viral was a complete surprise to the Ginters. They posted the dashcam vid hoping that someone might be able to identify the other driver, thinking that it might get a few hundred viewings from fellow drivers. To their surprise the film has received 2.6 million hits and counting.

Art Ginter himself has only viewed the video a couple of times, but he’s a big believer in dash cams. However he balks at the idea of dashcams being mandated for commercial drivers and vehicles. “I’m uneasy when I hear the word ‘mandated’ in our industry. “There are already so many rules that we have to abide by and I wouldn’t want another one added to the list,” he told me. “But I think they are a real good idea. For a hundred bucks you can get one and it could save you a lot more in the long run.” Ginter said he will never drive his truck without a dash cam in the future.

Dash cams are ubiquitous in Russia to guard against police corruption and insurance fraud, which is widespread in that country. As far as I know, only one country, Austria, forbids their use, while they are legal almost everywhere else. Issues of privacy might have to be respected, but for the most part filming activities on public roadways is completely acceptable.

I can think of many instances where dash cams would have been invaluable: the case where the BC trucker stopped to help a motorist and was beaten unconscious, wouldn’t it be great if a record of the other vehicle would exist? I was myself run off the road by a driver on the 401 who pulled into my lane before completely passing me. I confronted the driver at the next weigh scale and called the OPP and the carrier. Nothing came of my complaint except a nasty call from the driver (evidently his employer gave hm my phone number). A visual record of the occurrence would have helped greatly to get this guy called up on the carpet.

I want to ask the drivers out there: Do you think dash cams should be used on Class 8 trucks? Do you use one yourself and have you ever had to use it as evidence? I understand some companies don’t want their facilities filmed. How do you get around this? Your thoughts are welcome.

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Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.

With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.

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  • I think dash cams are a great tool as long as they are aimed out the windshield. I do not think they should be mandated. I personally do not have one, yet.

  • I have used them for years, have provided video to police to substantiate claims of erratic driving after a truck rolled over in BC. Will not drive a truck without one.
    However mandating them is a problem! This isn’t a police state!!
    If my company doesn’t want me filming my day, they don’t want my truck working on their fleet!!

  • I use the three-camera system (windshield looking forward, one on each mirror looking back) with superb
    140-hour digital hard-drive and 7″ color screen marketed by WindshieldCam in Calgary, AB. It’s just great,
    and am so glad I have it. Within two-weeks of installation in 2012 it protected both my employer and client
    from a fraudulent union-worker injury claim in Newark, NJ while pulling away from a dock. My employer was originally lukewarm to dashcams but over time they have finally come around. They know and understand these systems protect them, irrespective of whether their driver was at fault, or not. It helps recover costs when it is a non-preventable accident — and it helps save them money when a preventable accident because it prevents lawyers from making things look worse than it actually was. It is, what it is.
    No more, no less. It does so much to reduce and eliminate exaggerations and frivolous claims.

  • I have had one for about a year so far I have not needed it. I purchased mine after a fellow driver had a problem. He was driving through town and a vehicle ran a 4 way stop just missing him he honked the horn to warm them. The women in the car saluted him then proceeded to slow him down and annoy him. Then when they saw a cop they stopped him and made a formal complaint , the driver was pulled over and the cop started in on him until the dash cam was replayed the women were charged with multiple offences and were given such a tounge leasing by the cop my friend could hardly believe it. Truck drivers are assumed to be in the wrong, when in doubt charge the truck driver dash cams will reduce this attitude and may also show the public how their driving effects a truck. I do not think they should be mandatory we have far to many reasons for DOT to pull us over already but for around $100 you can protect yourself.

  • I too believe in the Dash Cam’s however to mandate them is just silly. This is not Russia, mind you, corruption still exist in the great country of Canada.

  • A dash cam is one item at the top of my must get list. I have several incidents involving people using cell phones while driving. A young man ran into the left front fender of my F350 while he ran across a road while texting. Thank the Lord the cop believed me and that a store cam caught it on tape. Another driver crossed the centre line and hit my left mirror with his left mirror. Several other occasions where things could have gone very bad. Total damage to my truck from the first two incidents has been $ 900.00 which has come out of my pocket. If I had a dash cam I would have solid evidence as who was to blame and perhaps I could recoup my loss. I have no problem that after a collision the dash cam might show me at fault. I think having a dash cam might improve driving habits we may not be aware of.

  • I was issued a ticket in Winnipeg for going thru a red light.The dash cam showed the light was green when I entered the intersection and I offered to show the cop the video.He wasn’t interested so I said i’ll see him in court.I’ll keep you posted

  • I have had a camera for about a year now and since it went up on my window,ive only had a hand full of incidents. Quite possiably Ive slowed down because of the fuel situation were in now a days but im more relaxed knowing that if i behave myselve out here ….I have extra insurance with my camera.

  • I think it is more useful having a camera on the dashboard, than not having. Yes sometimes, like in this case, it is bit weird story, but in most cases, it can help understand situations and being able to watch them, would definitely help.

  • Hey Harry,

    Your post made me feel wow, why? because i have recently started a blog on Dash Cams and landed on your blog, I hope your post will surely help me to create better and more engaged content for my readers. Really loved it, keep it up. By the way i need a small favour, in your free time can you please check my site & do provide me suggestions. Your suggestions will not only my day but also a decade. Cheers!!!

  • Hey Harry,
    Great Info posted there man!
    I personally think it is better to have a dash cam installed rather than not. In most cases it really can show the actual footage of what happened to the insurance company in order to claim.