Why Are Dash Cams So Popular In Russia?
Spend a little time on the internet and you’re likely to notice something a bit odd.
From YouTube to news articles to thousands of independent websites, Russian dashboard camera videos seem to be virtually everywhere on the web. At no point was this more apparent than in February 2013, when a 13,000-ton meteor blazed a trail across the skies above the city of Chelyabinsk before exploding and causing significant damage and injuries on the ground.
Not surprisingly, the unusual event was captured by several dashboard cameras that were recording at the time. So, how has the humble dashcam become such a ubiquitous fixture in Russian life?
Though there are many underlying reasons for the Russian dash cam culture – many of which will be discussed below – it’s worth noting that none of this would be possible without the falling prices that come along with technological advances.
Dashboard cameras are more affordable than ever before, and the majority of Russian citizens can now afford at least a basic dash cam with enough storage to handle their daily needs.
Additionally, Russian laws passed within the last decade have removed many of the potential legal hurdles to installing and using cameras inside a vehicle. This combination of factors has made dashboard cameras accessible to nearly everyone, and most Russians have chosen to take advantage of that fact.
Driving is an inherently dangerous activity no matter where you do it, but hopping into a vehicle in Russia carries added risks that go well beyond those of driving in many Western countries.
In such a staggeringly vast country as Russia, it should come as no surprise that many roads are poorly maintained and littered with potential hazards.
The notoriously harsh winters and unpredictable weather conditions certainly don’t help, either.
Even in the country’s largest metropolitan areas, the crush of bumper-to-bumper traffic makes for stressful, sometimes dangerous driving conditions.
In fact, despite having only one-sixth the number of cars on the road as the United States, Russia experiences nearly twice as many fatal accidents per capita.
While dash cameras won’t stop anyone from spinning out on an icy road, they do encourage people to drive in a safer, more responsible manner. Sometimes, at least.
Russian Road Rage
Road rage is a problem throughout the modern world, but Russia’s combination of overwhelming traffic and terrible driving conditions serves as a breeding ground for aggressive drivers.
Violent confrontations occur with disturbing frequency, with drivers often squaring off over incidents as minor as a fender-bender or being cut off for a parking spot.
In days gone by, some people turned to guns or other weapons stashed in their car for protection against enraged drivers. Now, the dashboard camera often settles such disputes far more peacefully and effectively.
Russia has long been recognized as one of the developed world’s most corrupt countries, and the police force tasked with enforcing traffic laws is no exception.
Many drivers have complained of less-than-ethical police who lay traps, bend traffic laws and flat-out threaten drivers in order to extract bribes for their own personal gain.
This practice is especially common in the vast tracts of land outside the country’s major cities, but even major metro areas are not immune.
It’s not just the police that Russian drivers need to concern themselves with, either. In the days before dashboard cameras came to prevalence, unscrupulous people would deliberately set up drivers in order to extort them.
Sometimes this came in the form of an intentionally-caused car accident, or occasionally someone throwing themselves in front of a car with the intent to suffer bodily injury. In some cases, corrupt police officers would conveniently station themselves nearby in order to get in on the action.
While these cons still happen occasionally, the dash cam has firmly put the power in such situations back in the hands of innocent drivers. After all, it’s difficult to extort someone who possesses video evidence of the attempted scam.
Insurance Against Insurance
In the United States and the UK, the car insurance process is relatively straightforward. Everyone is required to carry insurance, and submitting a claim generally goes pretty smoothly.
The same can’t be said of Russia, where basic liability insurance has only recently become mandatory and the entire insurance industry is skewed toward denying claims.
Two-way insurance policies are far too expensive for many citizens, and others can’t afford a vehicle new enough to qualify. Instead, accident claims are often dismissed or ruled at-fault for the driver regardless of the circumstantial evidence.
In the past, these facts led to a thriving cottage industry of insurance fraudsters and an extraordinarily high rate of hit-and-runs after accidents. The Russian mob, in particular, was once fond of extorting people by causing minor accidents and pressuring drivers to pay on the spot.
Since most people didn’t carry two-way insurance protection, paying the extortion money was often preferable to dealing with corrupt cops and an ineffective insurance system.
That’s where dashboard cameras come in. Although witness statements and other circumstantial details are often dismissed, full video documentation is far harder to ignore.
Where insurance may have failed Russian drivers in the past, most can now count on their dash cam video to support their claims in the event of an accident.
This has begun to slowly make the insurance industry more effective and responsive, and it’s also helped to reduce the near-epidemic of hit-and-run cases since dashboard cameras often capture license plate numbers and other important identifying details.
The dashboard camera trend is only gradually catching on in the United States and other countries, where the need for such protection isn’t as great.
Still, while it may have garnered a great deal of attention for bringing lurid accident clips and air-bursting meteors to the web, it’s also been a catalyst for positive change in the Wild, Wild West that is the Russian road network.
So, there you go, these are some main reasons why dash cams are so popular in Russa. If you ever find yourself navigating the vast wilds of Russia in your automobile, don’t forget to smile. You never know when you’ll end up on camera.