Sometimes a piece of technology comes along that is embraced with such readiness that very soon people wonder how, and why, they ever coped without it.
The dashboard-mounted camera hasn’t quite reached the same level as the mobile phone or the wheeled suitcase, but the exponential rate at which it is spreading across the automotive industry suggests it could become an even more common sight in years to come.
Nextbase is the UK’s biggest manufacturer of dash cams, and director Richard Browning joined us to talk about the state of the market.
Why have dash cams got so popular, and how do we use them in the UK compared to the rest of the world?
It’s about what the customer wants to do with the product. In the Far East it is a technology product with lots of random tech in there – we just don’t deem a lot of that as relevant over here. In Eastern Europe and Russia it is a security product – it is bought for the prevention of abuse by corrupt officials or similar.
In Europe we use it as an independent security product. If you are involved in an accident then you can prove you aren’t at fault. That is integral to the market; we are all conditioned to prove that we aren’t at fault. In the majority of cases there is blame and a dash cam is able to let the innocent party prove that they are not to blame.
What has the fleet market reaction been to dash cams?
Consumers led the rise in popularity and businesses have followed. We have seen high-level adoption by the consumer from 2011-2013, but in the past 18 months we have seen a big focus on the benefits of dash cams from commercial fleets.
Many of our early users were commercial drivers, but they were buying it themselves to support themselves in case anything happened. Now we are seeing companies issuing dash cams because they see the financial and other benefits.
What is the reaction from company drivers that are given a dash cam?
They feel they are doing the watching rather than being watched themselves – they have embraced dash cams. The stress that is involved with a crash in a company vehicle is massive. If you drive for your profession, as a lorry driver, company car driver or a van driver, then an accident can have huge implications.
It is unjust that you would end up in that scenario for an accident that isn’t your fault. We have only one licence and what happens in your company life can have serious impacts on your private life.
Isn’t kitting out an entire fleet with cameras going to be expensive?
I would argue as fleet tech it is at the cheap end – we have products starting at £49 and savings are instantly available through insurers. There is no subscription cost, as there is with telematics and the like. Once you have paid for it then it is yours and you can move it between different vehicles.
Do some drivers feel like they are being watched?
One of the key benefits is that a dash cam isn’t a CCTV device – it re-records over itself so unless you press a button it loops over the same footage. It cannot
be used for snooping, it is about recording the incidents that matter.
Browning on…Driving standards
“One thing we have seen recently, mostly from commercial drivers, is people reporting other drivers for bad driving. Drivers have been convicted for bad driving and the footage has come from another driver with a dash cam. It is a very good preventative measure.
“We see a lot of our drivers with dash cams saying that other drivers drive differently when they know they have a dash cam. All of ours come with a window sticker, but people spot them, too.
“I’d say 90% of our users say they drive safer with a camera installed. This isn’t about being observed, but it is knowing that there are others out there with a camera and an incident will be reported factually rather than on hearsay. That has a benefit for all on the road.”