More motorists are installing in-car recorders to capture instances of bad cycling and driving
Sales of "dash-cams" in cars are soaring as owners record evidence of clashes and crashes with cyclists and other road users. Cycle helmet cameras have been popular for years, but only now are drivers getting their own gadgets as retailers stock up to meet demand and the RAC prepares to launch its own dashboard camera.
Cyclists regularly post footage online after clashes with drivers and the clips are often used as a basis for police complaints. Scotland Yard launched an investigation last week after a clash between an Audi A7 driver and cyclist in Farringdon, central London, which went viral and has been viewed almost a million times.
However, the growth of dash-cams is predicted to herald a new trend of car drivers uploading footage of bad cycling. One electronics store had a 150 per cent rise in sales over the Christmas period.
Car owners also hope the accident cameras will help them with insurance claims as many still fall victim to "crash-for-cash" scams. A new "flash-for-crash" craze, with seemingly polite drivers flashing an oncoming car to allow them out at a junction before driving into them, has prompted more drivers to consider buying the gadgets.
Halfords in-car technology manager Alec James said: "Following an incident, people are often reluctant to admit guilt and risk losing their no-claims discount. In addition, the surge in fraudulent 'crash-for-cash' claims is causing genuine concern among innocent drivers. The range of recording devices we now offer means that we can provide drivers with the means to produce evidence."
Online sales are also on the rise. Electronics website Digi4u said sales of dash-cams rose 28 per cent in the last quarter of 2013. A spokeswoman said: "The product is particularly popular among taxi drivers who use it to monitor their on-call drives and use the video as evidence in insurance claims in case of an accident."
Dash-cams are popular in Poland, Japan and the United States but have yet to catch on in Britain. They are ubiquitous in Russia with drivers using them to guard against police corruption and insurance fraud.
Although the number of drivers with dash-cams is only about 3 per cent in Britain, research from the RAC shows that four-in-10 owners are considering buying one. Almost 60 per cent of drivers said they wanted the gadget to have a visual record of an accident. The RAC said that one in five who own the gadget said they had bought it to guard against "crash-for-cash" scams.
RAC insurance director Kerry Michael said: "As long as they are used correctly they are a valuable record of the circumstances that occurred around an accident. With 'crash-for-cash' crimes, unfortunately, becoming more prevalent on UK roads, dash-cams could become the motoring gadget 'must have' of 2014."
Police have welcomed this growing popularity. Paul Marshall, Suffolk's deputy chief constable, said: "Increasing use is being made by the public of digital cameras to record evidence of offences which can be used by the police to support prosecutions. This is welcomed by the Association of Chief Police Officers as quite often the only evidence available is an eyewitness account which is disputed by the alleged offender."
Drivers are urging insurance companies to give significant discounts for installing dash-cams, but Ian Crowder from the AA said: "The key question: will they one day become an insurance requirement or will they be built into vehicles at manufacture? I can't see the former happening while the latter may well result from the technology being applied to new cars."