Whether you’re a new or a seasoned driver, chances are you’ve had several experiences with traffic tickets. Maybe you were late for work and drove over the speed limit. Maybe you hadn’t realized you had a broken tail light. Maybe you were thinking about all the things you needed to do for the day and ran a red light. But sometimes, when you get pulled over, you are honestly perplexed. The police officer may be giving you an explanation that doesn’t go hand-in-hand with your recollection of what happened. This can be extremely frustrating — especially when it all comes down to your word against the word of the police officer (and judges routinely believe police officers over motorists). This is when real evidence in the form of time- and date-stamped dash cam footage can help.
What is a Dash Cam?
A dash cam is a recording device you place on your dashboard (short for dashboard camera). There are free options that you can download as an app allowing you to use your mobile phone as a dash cam. One popular app is called Driver.
There are also types you can purchase. Some of them begin recording footage when you start your car. Others require that you push a button. Prices can range greatly, depending on the features you wish to have — such as motion sensors, cloud storage, or a view of the interior of your car. Once the memory is full, dash cams will start recording over old footage. However, you can choose to preserve specific video segments. This feature is highly useful if you have to fight a traffic ticket in court.
How can a dash cam help you fight a traffic ticket in court?
1. It Accurately Depicts the Location Where you Were Pulled Over
There are many factors that come into play when pulling someone over. Was the traffic light green, yellow or red? Were any signs obstructed by foliage? Is the traffic sign or device defaced? Any of these circumstances can be relevant when deciding whether to find a motorist guilty of a moving violation. Granted, you can always take photographs after the fact, but dash cam footage can show how things were in real time. Further, dash cam footage can help establish the precise circumstances such as how many lights were at an intersection, what did the traffic device read, or where was the police officer located?
2. It Displays Your Driving Speed
Not only do dash cams display speed, the speedometer feature gets updated every second. Although these are not calibrated like police officers’ radars, they can still be used to call into question a speeding ticket — especially if the police officer cited you for allegedly going at a substantially higher speed than the posted limit. This is also helpful if you have a commercial driver’s license and a speeding ticket could jeopardize your ability to work.
3. It Clears Up Whether You Were Wearing Your Seatbelt
Some dash cams record what happens inside your car. This is extremely useful if you got a traffic ticket allegedly failing to wear a seat belt. Keep in mind that, in many states, you can only present audio evidence of conversations relating to these alleged offenses if the other party was aware that you were recording the conversations (and consented).
4. It Disproves Claims of Distracted Driving
Most states and Washington, DC have laws banning texting while driving. For instance, in New York State, it is illegal to use an electronic device while driving. Use is defined broadly and this moving violation carries a whopping 5 points. This encompasses many forms of distracted driving, such as checking your email, scrolling through your playlists, or otherwise momentarily taking your eyes off the road to look at your electronic device’s screen. By having dash cam footage of the interior of your vehicle, you can present evidence disproving claims of illegally using an electronic device.
5. It Shows Whether You Acted to Avoid More Serious Harm
Sometimes, you have to swerve to avoid hitting a pedestrian or cyclist who darted in front of your car. Or maybe you sped up to avoid another driver who was about to T-Bone you. While this doesn’t negate the fact that you may have broken the law, you would be able to raise the defense of necessity, which is relevant in criminal cases, such as those involving reckless driving.
6. It Records Conversations Between You And The Police Officer
Often a police officer will claim that a motorist made an admission. A dash cam can be used to negate such incriminating evidence.
What else should you know about dash cams?
There are many different types of dash cams, all with different features. Regardless of the bells and whistles, first and foremost, you want to ensure the camera records high definition (HD) quality footage. Anything that’s blurry or that can be called into question will put a dent in your arguments in court.
Something else you’ll want to keep in mind is that some dash cams — and dash cam apps — have a feature that provides a driver summary. For example, let’s say you drive 30 miles every day to and from work. You get pulled over for allegedly speeding. A driver summary can show the total number of hours you’ve driven since installing the cam, as well as every single time you’ve driven over the speed limit and/or slammed on the brakes. While this is not conclusive evidence, it does help to paint a better picture of your driving record and on your driving history during the trip in question.