Why dash cams should be mandatory in all vehicles

COUNTER FLOW - James Deakin - The Philippine Star

I’ve seen it happen too many times. And I’m sure you have, too. Traffic is moving like molasses—or worse, as fast as your local mobile data connection. Sure you’re used to congestion, but this is still out of the ordinary. And worse, comes with no logical explanation. Then, after patiently crawling and defending every square inch in front of you from lane thieves, you see it: a fender bender. A simple, garden-variety, fender bender. It’s as common as dirt, but still, everyone must stop and stare like they saw a Kardashian.

Now this is a phenomenon not unique to the Philippines; even the most developed countries succumb to this primal urge. But what is unique to the Philippines is the need to prolong the agony. Basically, what could and should be sorted out quickly by taking a couple of snaps and swapping numbers and license details, is aggravated by this antiquated need to back traffic up to the mid-80’s just so we can wait for a traffic officer to draw a sketch. Yes, a sketch. Which is basically a technique that cavemen would use to describe a scene. So much for 2016.

Funny, we are the selfie capital of the world and—per capita at least—the largest embracers of social media; yet for some strange reason, when it comes time to actually put those phone cameras to good use, we still need to wait for kindergarten cop to come over and draw a pretty picture that can be submitted as evidence to the insurance companies and the traffic accident bureau. Why, you ask? Well a large part is our cultural resistance to adopt any logical or more efficient method due to a paralyzing fear that it may affect someone’s source of income, but a larger part is trust.

I don’t know if it is inherent in our culture, but given an opportunity, too many drivers out there will change their tune once they have left the scene. No matter how at fault they know they are. It seems that some people will rather use the same effort, money, and resources avoiding responsibility than they would to just pay the damages in the first place. Sometimes it has nothing to even do with the money and becomes a matter of pride or a nauseating abuse of power. And this is where it starts getting ugly.

I could fill the rest of this column with horror stories of sketches being drawn in favor of the highest bidder, motorists promising to pay for damages then denying till they die, enforcers harassing, intimidating and extorting motorists, or I could sum up the solution for you in two short words: Dash Camera.

Personally, I believe the time has come to make these mandatory in every car, just like they are in Russia, as well as in taxi cabs in Singapore, Taiwan and Korea, simply because it is the simplest, most cost-effective way to protect yourself from the evil that lurks out on our roads.

No more he-said-she-said. Let the cameras tell the story. We have gone way past the point of taking one word against the other. It’s time we take back our right to remain silent.

The amount of time and money it will save in investigations, sketches, traffic, insurance fraud and court cases alone is already good enough reason to make it mandatory. Then you have the added benefit of deterring or reporting habitual law-breakers like counter-flowers, red-light-beaters, left-lane-hoggers and abusive traffic enforcers.

I’ll guarantee you that once you have one installed, you will find that you tend to drive around with a newfound confidence. Instead of feeling vulnerable when you’re involved in a traffic accident, or a cop tries shaking you down for a traffic violation, or infuriated when a VIP’s backup vehicle with rent-a-thugs try to run you off the road, you look at it as viral YouTube content. It’s all a matter of perspective.

And the best part is that because it is a two-way street, it makes you a better driver in the process because there’s no point showing a video of some idiot doing something stupid when you happen to be doing something just as stupid yourself, right?

It’s a jungle out there. And if there’s anything we’ve learned from it, it’s that humans behave better when they know they are being watched. So it’s time to put eyes everywhere. Because as much as I value privacy, you lose all rights to it if you want to behave bad publicly. So short of having CCTVs installed nationwide, the mandatory use of dash cameras is just common sense. So let’s make it more common.

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