Dash Cam Guidelines and Legality—Protecting Yourself On The Road

A dashboard camera or “dash cam” is a popular piece of equipment used by drivers to record footage inside and around their vehicle. They are immensely popular in countries such as Russia and are increasing in popularity in the United States. American drivers are taking note of the huge benefit of having a second pair of eyes with them while on the road, including increased safety and reliable evidence. This comprehensive compilation of dash cam guidelines will give you a better understanding of how dashboard cameras work and why you could benefit from purchasing one.

Dash Cam Guidelines FAQ

To begin, let’s go over some frequently asked questions about dashboard cameras.

What is a Dash Cam?

dashboard camera

A dashboard camera or “dash cam” is a device that is mounted on the windshield of a vehicle in order to record video and sometimes audio surrounding the vehicle. You may have seen videos online taken by dash cams of police stops, car accidents, meteors, and more. Their legality varies from state to state and are not currently required by law for private US citizens. Police cars are likely to have them installed, but some departments do not use them.

What is the Purpose of a Dash Cam?

A dash cam is meant to record video and/or audio surrounding a vehicle and sometimes inside the vehicle. They are immensely helpful in car accident cases, insurance claims, and during police stops. Clear video and audio evidence is oftentimes irrefutable, therefore it’s an incredible asset for drivers, police officers, and other citizens. Dash cams can also increase a driver’s likelihood to take proper safety measures because they know their actions are being recorded.

What Features Should My Dash Cam Have?

There are a few different kinds of dash cams. Some key features you should look for when purchasing a dash cam include:

  • Video definition—High definition cameras will ensure the footage is not blurry and provides an accurate account of an incident. Dash cams are meant to catch details like license plates, make and models of vehicles, faces, and anything that serves as crucial evidence. A low definition camera will likely not be able to capture these details effectively, especially if they are in motion. It’s best to look for a camera with a resolution of at least 1080p.
  • low light dash cam capability
  • Low-light capability—Accidents frequently occur during the evening, nighttime, and the early morning. A dash cam with low light capabilities will be able to record the important details that a less competent camera would miss without daylight.
  • Storage space—Your storage card should hold least 32GB and it’s best to choose a camera with a longer loop time. “Loops” are small sections that are a part of a continuous stream of footage. Once the card’s space is full, the oldest loops will begin to be deleted in order to make room for new footage. There are some models that can send the footage from your device to the cloud in order to save footage even if the device is stolen, damaged, or out of recording space.
  • Motion detection—Some dash cam models have the ability to create a separate video file after it detects movement or an impact. This is especially helpful for parked car hit and runs because you won’t have to comb through tons of footage in order to find the exact moment the collision occurred.
  • dash cam gps
  • GPS tracking—A dash cam with GPS capabilities will be able to stamp footage with the time, date, and location of an incident. These capabilities will also be able to track your car’s speeds, so you can prove you were not being reckless at the time of an accident.

While all of these features are important, the most crucial ones are an HD camera and ample storage space. Poor quality footage and absent footage will not do you any good, so be sure to check these off your list when shopping for a dash cam.

How Much Do Dash Cams Cost?

how much do dash cams cost

Depending on which features a dash cam possesses, they could cost anywhere between about $20 to a couple hundred dollars. A dash cam with proper definition and storage will usually start around $50 to $60, and extra features could make them between $100 and $200. It’s important to remember that the aforementioned features are the most important and highly worthy of paying extra for. Though this may seem like a steep cost, dash cams are an investment in your safety. You could save lots of time, energy, and money in the future thanks to following these dash cam guidelines the event of accidents, insurance claims, traffic tickets, and more.

Pennsylvania Dash Cam Guidelines and Laws

Dash cams are legal to use in the United States, but laws and regulations vary from state to state, and Pennsylvania has its own specific set of dash cam guidelines and laws that are crucial to follow.

Obstruction of View

dash cam view

In Pennsylvania, the driver’s view must not be obstructed by the dash cam. In addition to not blocking the driver’s line of sight, but the dash cam must not have a screen visible to the driver that displays video. According to statute 75 Pa.C.S. § 4527 (2007), “no motor vehicle operated on a highway can be equipped with television-type receiving equipment forward of the back of the driver’s seat or otherwise visible to the driver.” This could be distracting and unsafe, so be sure to install your dash cam on the right side of the windshield and that it’s small enough to not impede your view.

Audio Recording

If your dash cam records audio, it’s imperative that you inform the passengers in your vehicle that they are being recorded. According to the Wiretap Act, taping an audio recording of a person without their knowledge is illegal, so do not forget to inform each of your passengers before they enter your vehicle. This is especially important if you are an Uber or Lyft driver that consistently has passengers.

Court Admission

dash cam court admission

According to Pennsylvania dash cam guidelines, dash cam footage is almost always admissible in court. The exception is that the footage must only feature incidents in public locations, and subjects of audio recordings must be informed before they are recorded. There are some circumstances in which law enforcement can require you to turn over your footage to them. They can ask you to provide it and you can hand it over voluntarily. If you refuse, law enforcement can obtain a subpoena or search warrant in order to attain the footage. Under exigent circumstances, an officer can seize your footage if they have a reasonable belief that it contains crucial evidence and may be lost, destroyed, or tampered with if left in your possession. Just as importantly, law enforcement cannot force you to delete your footage.

Why You Should Install a Dash Cam

Following these dash cam guidelines will improve your life and safety in several ways. All drivers can benefit from at least one of the following advantages while on the road.

Accidents

car accident dash cam

Proving another driver’s fault after a car accident can be a huge headache, especially when it’s just your word against theirs. Having video evidence of the event and the time leading up to it is an invaluable advantage. Following these dash cam guidelines will make your case much stronger and save time and effort when building your argument. Without witnesses or an obvious indication of how the incident occurred, you could struggle to receive the compensation you deserve. A dash cam is an undeniable witness that is not susceptible to false or altered memories like the human brain is. Having one on your side will keep you protected.

Hit and Run

A dash cam will protect you from irresponsible drivers that commit hit and runs, whether you’re in the vehicle at the time of the accident or not. With dash cam footage, you don’t have to feel hopeless after a driver flees the scene of a collision. Also, if someone hits your vehicle while it’s parked, you don’t have to rely on them being kind enough to leave a note with their contact information. If a hit and run happens to your car, you will have footage of the accident, and potentially their car’s make, model, color, and license plate. This information will allow law enforcement to find and reprimand the driver at fault.

Insurance Fraud

dash cam insurance claim

When making a claim with your insurance company, they are going to want as much evidence as possible to ensure that you aren’t attempting to commit insurance fraud. As mentioned before, human memory is flawed, and eyewitness testimony is not 100% reliable. Without video proof, you are leaving it up to chance that you could even be falsely found at fault for the accident potentially increasing your insurance rate. Video evidence of an accident will protect both you and your insurance company from an unfair outcome after an insurance claim.

Police Stops and Tickets

police dash cam footage

Body cameras are an effective way for police officers to record their interactions with citizens during stops, but sometimes they fail to work, and some departments don’t have them at all. It’s extremely beneficial for you to have your own video account of the interaction if something goes wrong or you are treated unjustly. In addition to recording abuse of power on a police officer’s part, you can also use dash cam footage to dispute a ticket that you unfairly receive. It’s hard to fight a ticket without clear proof of your innocence, but with dash cam footage, you can easily refute an officer’s claim and avoid paying for a crime you didn’t commit.

Vandalism and Break Ins

If your car is vandalized or stolen from while parked, you will have video footage of the perpetrators’ faces and actions. When using a dash cam that uploads footage to the cloud, it doesn’t matter if the offenders steal your device as well. If a potential vandal or burglar sees that you have a dash cam installed, they may be less likely to choose your car out of fear of getting caught.

Young Drivers

young driver safety

Young drivers will benefit greatly from learning these dash cam guidelines and having one in their vehicle. Knowing that they are being recorded will instill a stronger sense of responsibility in them since a parent or guardian has the ability to review the footage at any time. A young driver will also not be able to turn the camera off or delete the footage without a parent knowing so their only option is to drive safely and following all rules and laws. Some high-quality dash cams have the ability to record driving speeds so teens will be more aware of obeying the speed limit. Having this agreement between parent and child will decrease a young driver’s risk of being hurt in an accident as well as improve their safe driving skills. In addition to safety benefits, a parent will have the ability to know where and when their child is driving to prevent them from going to a location they aren’t supposed to or driving past curfew.

Improve Safety

These safety benefits are not just exclusively to new and young drivers. Taking the responsibility as an adult to follow dash cam guidelines will make you a safer, smarter, and more aware driver. Installing a dash cam will force you to change your poor driving habits because you know you are being recorded and may need to use your footage in a claim. After using a dash cam for a while, those bad habits will dissipate, and your good driving habits will have become second nature.

Contact Donaghue and Labrum for Assistance after an Accident

If you have been the victim of a car accident, please contact Donaghue and Labrum as soon as possible so we can begin working to get you the compensation you deserve. We have extensive experience in auto accident lawsuits and an excellent track record of success. Following these dash cam guidelines can help us build your case greatly, but even without dash cam video evidence, we are still equipped to fight to bring you or your loved one justice. Do not hesitate—call Donaghue & Labrum today to set up your free first consultation.