4 Reasons Why Drivers Need a Dash Cam

Driver safety is a huge topic right now and one that has elicited a lot of reaction from drivers.  Today, RSG contributor, Scott Van Maldegiam takes a look at why drivers need dash cams and provides us with a few options to stay safe out on the road.  I like to think of a dash cam as a really cheap insurance policy.  You never know when you’re going to need it, but when you do, it can really bail you out.

When I drive for Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, safety is my number one concern.  Safety is such a broad term though.  Of course, I drive safe whenever I am behind the wheel but I am extra diligent when I have passengers in the car.  I always make sure I pick them up and drop them off in a safe area and in a safe way.

The other part of safety though is protecting myself and those in my car when things don’t go according to plan.  Whether it’s documenting an accident or documenting the behavior of a passenger who won’t be able to remember what they did the night before, it’s probably a good idea to have a dash cam in your car when you drive.

We will first look at the reasons why dash cams are a good idea, then discuss legal issues around recording and finally look at some of the models available.

Our latest article on dash cams compares the two most popular models here.

Reasons Why You Need a Dash Cam

Car Accident

This is the most obvious reason why a dash cam is a great idea.  As rideshare drivers, police and the general public will want to immediately jump to the conclusion that we were at fault.  I have seen too many articles where the headline states that some driver was in an accident and someone was hurt or killed. We are assumed guilty until proven innocent.  It is up to us to protect ourselves.

I had talked about an accident I was in while rideshare driving last year.  It was a minor fender bender with a taxi where the taxi was at fault.  I filled out a police report and the officer said I will never see a dime.  I was lucky I had a witness willing to step forward.  Having the witness was the key in making sure I received payment from the taxi’s insurance company.  Being diligent in following up with the insurance company helped, but I wouldn’t have gotten that far without the witness.

Most of the time, people won’t stick around on a Friday or Saturday night to give their contact information.  Most people will just say, “not my problem” and move on.  A dash cam is our witness and will protect us.  With just one not-at-fault accident, you will more than cover the cost of the dash cam.

Bad Rider Behavior

We have all had them: passengers who are more than just annoying.  I’m talking about riders who are a danger to us and a danger to themselves.  Being able to document a verbal assault or battery is vital to keeping yourself safe.

I had an experience with a passenger where he grabbed the steering wheel and gave it a yank.  He thought it would be funny.  The three other riders in the back seat were not amused.  Thankfully, this didn’t result in anything other than making our hearts jump but it shows how riders can be very unpredictable when they are drunk.  Being able to document what happened would have been very important if it had caused an accident.

Sexual Harassment – Discouraging It and Defending Against It

This differs depending on whether you are a male or female driver.  If you are a female driver, having a visible dash cam can prevent men riders from being too friendly.  For male drivers, the threat of being accused of sexual harassment by a female rider is always a possibility.  This includes being accused when you rebuke someone’s advances and they are offended.  Thankfully, I have never been accused, but there have been situations where drivers have been falsely accused.  Of course, if you are a driver that likes to get a little freaky with your passengers, having a dash cam is probably a bad idea.

Thankfully, I haven’t had an experience or put myself in a situation like the driver in Chicago, but there have been situations where female riders have come on to me.  Normally, it is very easy to make it clear I am not interested in a non-offending way, but there have been a few occasions where the women were extremely drunk and very clear in their “intentions”.  In those situations, I always wondered in the back of my mind if these riders would file a complaint or worse.  It would have given me much more peace of mind if I had a dash cam.

Underage Riders

As part of the Uber/Lyft TOS, riders agree that they are 18 or over, and they agree not to request rides for unaccompanied minors.  We all know that this rule is ignored everyday by everyone though with more and more frequency.  Having a dash cam can protect drivers against any accusations that might come as a result of driving a minor.

Can’t buy a dash cam right now but still want to protect yourself with audio and image recording? Check out Seam, an app for your phone that can record audio and images, plus keep you safe by connecting you to your emergency contacts. Read more about Seam here.

While the laws vary a bit from state to state, there are some general rules you can follow.  Believe it or not, recording video is not a problem at all.  If you only want to record video and no audio, there is no need to notify passengers they are being recorded.  The issue comes up if you want to record audio as well.  In this case, place a sign indicating they are being recorded or just a simple verbal notification that they are being recorded qualifies as notification.

Editor’s Note:  We are not lawyers and this is not meant as legal advice.  If you plan on using a dash cam, know the laws in your state and abide by them in order to make the best use of your dash cam evidence.  One thing I do know though is that the fines associated with unlawfully recording are probably much less severe than the harm that can come out of a false criminal accusation.

Which Model?

There are plenty of models to choose from.  Here are a few options that we have researched and readers have recommended.

All of the links below are Amazon affiliate links which means that if you purchase one of these cameras or any product on Amazon’s site for that matter within the next 24 hours, we’ll get a small commission.  Additionally, if you shop on Amazon a lot and would like to support the site, just click on one of our Amazon Links before you shop.  It won’t cost you anything extra and it’s a great way to give back!

Falcon Zero by Incredisonic

This model looks like the ideal dash cam for rideshare drivers and it actually replaces your current rearview mirror..  It has two cameras that can be rotated 180 degrees.  Since the cameras are attached to the mirror, it has a much better vantage point for seeing out the front and the back.  It records at high resolution of 1080p.

Falcon Zero Dash Cam
Falcon Zero Dash Cam

For more information check it out here.

Go Pro

Go Pro’s are the gold standard of action video cameras but come with a premium price.  These seem to be less and more than is needed.  We aren’t trying to make a movie with our dash cams.  We just want video and audio proof should something happen.  Go Pro’s video quality exceeds what is required in this case.  But, if you have one layin’ around, you might as well put it to use.  It won’t record in 2 directions like the Falcon Zero, but it will record in one in fine fashion.

GoPro Hero 3 Dash Cam
GoPro Hero 3 Dash Cam

For more information, check it out here.

Go Pro Clone

If you like the Go Pro style but want a more affordable version, check out the SJ4000.  It’s basically a Go Pro Clone but at a much lower price point (h/t to reader Anthony).

RioRand SJ4000 Dash Cam
RioRand SJ4000 Dash Cam

For more information, check it out here.

Old Cell Phone

With plenty of apps available to turn your cell phone into a dash cam, you can always use your cell phone to record video while you’re driving.  You’ll likely run into a lot of problems with memory and your phone slowing down but it could come in handy if you have a bad feeling about a particular ride.  At a minimum, I suggest downloading a video recording app just in case.

Can’t buy a dash cam right now but still want to protect yourself with audio and image recording? Check out Seam, an app for your phone that can record audio and images, plus keep you safe by connecting you to your emergency contacts. Read more about Seam here.

Have you thought about installing a dash cam in your rideshare vehicle?  Share your thoughts.

-Scott @ RSG