Dash cams: the definitive guide

Thinking of buying a dash cam? These devices are becoming increasingly common in vehicles across the UK, with many drivers now considering them must-haves for modern motoring.
Used correctly, they can provide evidence in the case of accidents, and prompt you to adopt better driving habits. But used incorrectly, and they could leave you facing motoring penalties.
If you already have a conviction, whether it’s linked to driving or not, you’ll want to keep the cost of motoring to a minimum. That’s where specialist convicted driver insurance can help.


Chapter 1: Dash cams: the basics
Chapter 2: How to get the best view from your dash cams
Chapter 3: How to use your dash cams safely and legally
Chapter 4: How dash cams help to determine fault in accidents
Chapter 5: How dash cams protect your vehicle from criminals
Chapter 6: How dash cams could keep everyone safer on the roads
Chapter 7: Choosing a feature-rich dash cam
Chapter 8: How to install a dash cam quickly and easily
Chapter 9: Dash cam dos and don’ts

Chapter 1. Dash cams: the basics

Dash cams have risen in popularity in the UK in the last few years – but many motorists are still unsure about what exactly they are. So here is a quick introduction.
Dash cams are small cameras mounted in your vehicle that record footage of the road around you and save it to a memory card. Crucial details of road-related incidents can be submitted as evidence to police or insurance providers. Unimportant footage will be continually overwritten.
Usually, they’re installed on the windscreen to record the road in front of you. But you can also buy dual systems that include cameras to record the view behind you; or triple systems, which have an extra camera to capture your vehicle’s interior.
Many dash cams on the market today boast additional features, such as warning systems to improve your safety. This definitive guide helps you decide which one’s right for your motoring needs.

Chapter 2. How to get the best view from your dash cams

Whether you choose one, two or three cameras, it’s essential that you mount them in a way that doesn’t obstruct the driver’s view. Otherwise, you might find yourself stopped by the police.
If you choose a simple front-facing dash cam, you’ll get footage of the road ahead and any incidents that occur. That’s the main recording you’ll need, and for many drivers, it’s enough.
While some can be mounted on the dashboard, it’s best to place them on the windscreen behind the rear view mirror. Try to position yours so you can still see the LED screen, if it has one. However, what’s most important is that the camera has a clear view of the road without obstructing the driver’s line of vision.
Bear in mind that some cars have surrounds, consoles or radar systems that make positioning your dash cam tricky. It might be possible to fit yours on the passenger side of the rear view mirror instead, but make sure it doesn’t intrude more than 40mm into the area covered by your wipers.
Driving with an obscured windscreen is an offence under road vehicles regulations. If you’re stopped by police, you could face a fine and penalty points on your licence. Motorists who accrue lots of points risk being disqualified, and might require convicted driver insurance.
Many drivers choose a system with an additional rear camera to provide evidence if you are rear-ended, or have an accident while reversing.
Some rear cams are designed to be stuck to the rear windscreen and connected to the front camera using a long cable. Others are simply add-ons to the main front-facing camera, and have a narrower viewing angle.
Finally, some motorists also choose to install an interior or cabin camera. Many use infrared technology to get good images in poor light conditions. They are generally designed for usage in commercial vehicles, e.g. taxis.

Chapter 3. How to use your dash cams safely and legally

Dashcams are perfectly legal in the UK. However, to stay on the right side of the law, there are a few simple rules you should know concerning safety and privacy.
First of all, dash cams need to be mounted securely and in a way that does not obstruct your view, as mentioned above and in Chapter 8 below.
Plus, just as with mobile phones, you must not be distracted by your dash cam while driving. So don’t touch it while at the wheel – even if you’re stationary, for example at a red traffic light. If you don’t comply, you could end up fined or given penalty points on your licence.
Privacy is another key area of concern. If you install one in a business vehicle such as a shared company car or a taxi, you must let other users know they’re being recorded. Failure to do so is a breach of privacy laws.
Finally, you should be aware that many other countries have more stringent regulations than the UK, particularly concerning privacy. In Austria and Portugal, for example, dash cams are illegal, while France, Belgium and Germany all have strict conditions on their usage. Check before you set off on your journey to avoid the risk of heavy penalties.
If you fall foul of any laws, you could end up with a driving conviction, and might require specialist convicted driving insurance before you’re allowed back behind the wheel.

Chapter 4. How dash cams help to determine fault in accidents

For most motorists, the draw of installing a dash cam is to prove they’re not at fault in case of an accident. But, obviously, this works both ways!
After a road traffic accident, it can be hard to determine how it happened: your view might differ from that of others involved. Unless there are impartial witnesses, it can come down to your word against that of another driver, leaving you potentially open to insurance claims against you or even prosecution.
And if you’re convicted of a motoring offence, you’re likely to see your insurance premiums rise – or you might struggle to get cover at all. You’ll need to look for specialist convicted driver insurance.
Alternatively, the other driver might speed off without stopping to exchange details. Unless you are super quick with your smartphone camera, it’s hard to get down all the details that can help police trace the culprit, such as the car number plate.
In such scenarios, dash cam footage can be decisive. It can show how an accident happened, and who was involved. You can submit it to the police or your insurance provider, and it can be used in evidence in court.
But of course, that footage might show that you were the driver at fault in any accident. And if you’re stopped on suspicion of an offence such as careless driving or speeding, the police can demand to see your dash cam footage.
So it’s more important than ever that you drive carefully if you have a dash cam installed. And don’t even think of trying to destroy or tamper with the evidence – that’s a serious offence.

Chapter 5. How dash cams protect your vehicle from criminals

As well as protecting you while driving, your dash cams can keep an eye on your vehicle while you’re not using it. Plus, they make it harder for criminals to make false insurance claims against you.
Many dash cams have a ‘parking mode’, which starts recording if it detects vibrations around the vehicle or a knock to the bodywork. So if you return to your vehicle to find it’s been damaged, vandalised, or broken into, check your dash cam footage.
Dash cams can also protect you in the case of ‘crash for cash’ crimes. These are where criminals deliberately stage accidents to look like your fault so they can claim on your insurance, e.g. by flashing their lights so you pull out in front of them, only to drive into you and claim you weren’t looking.
Footage from your dash cam can back up your version of events, saving you from costly insurance claims. In some scenarios, it could even spare you motoring penalties and the need to find specialist convicted driver insurance.

Chapter 6. How dash cams could keep everyone safer on the roads

One of the prime reasons to install a dash cam is to improve safety. They are said to help encourage safer driving on the UK’s roads, bring dangerous motorists and criminals to justice, and improve your own driving habits.
As more and more road dash cams are being installed in vehicles, it’s becoming increasingly hard for motorists to get away with dangerous driving. This should have a deterrent effect, and keep the UK’s roads safer.
Car owners who install this equipment might also be encouraged to drive more safely themselves, as they are aware that their speed and driving habits are being recorded. If you’re the parent or guardian of a new driver, you can review footage to check that your youngster is driving safely at all times.
Interior cameras can also be effective at reminding you and other people using your car to avoid unsafe distractions such as using a mobile phone at the wheel. Remember: even if this habit doesn’t cause an accident, it can lead to you getting slapped with a fine and penalty points. If you’re struggling to get insurance because you’ve got too many points on your licence, you might need to seek out specialist convicted driver insurance.
Plus, dash cams can capture evidence that’s vital for solving serious non-driving crimes, such as violence that takes place on the street. In such incidents, police often issue requests for footage from passing motorists.
You can also submit dash cam evidence to most police forces in England and Wales online, although there’s currently no such database for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Given all these safety factors, it’s no surprise to learn that police cars in most areas are fitted with dash cams.

Chapter 7. Choosing a feature-rich dash cam

Not all dash cams are created equal. It’s an ever-changing market, and the terminology used can be quite confusing.  So to make sure it’s worth investing in this equipment, what features should you look out for?
Top-of-the-range dash cams boast an array of smart features – and a price tag to match. Here are just some of the most common features you could consider.
  • Resolution: to be sure your footage is good enough quality to be used as evidence, you need a high resolution. Even cheaper models these days tend to record in 1080p Full HD, while more advanced devices offer 1440p or even 4k resolution. It’s common for rear view cams to be lower resolution than front cameras.
  • Light/ aperture: with many accidents taking place at dusk or night, it’s important that your dash cam is up to the task. Look for models with a large aperture and dedicated night modes, so that you can be sure they will capture essential details such as number plates even after dark.
  • Steadiness: your video needs to provide crisp stills when paused, so you can pick out details such as number plates. Look out for fast frame rates and image stabilisation technology.
  • Image filters: these can reduce glare from windscreens, improving the quality of your recordings.
  • Angle: wide-angle lenses will offer a broader view of the road, capturing details that could prove crucial in determining fault for an accident.
  • GPS: this adds location and speed data to your recording. Plus, if you’re involved in a serious accident, built-in GPS can help the emergency services to locate your vehicle and get you to safety.
  • Time stamps: some cameras provide tamper-proof time and date stamps. Footage from these is even more robust when used as evidence. Remember: destroying or tampering with the evidence is a serious offence – anyone found guilty of this will face considerable penalties, and could well require convicted driver insurance.
  • G-sensors: these are accelerometers which detect the force of an impact. This means they can tell when your car is involved in an accident and save the relevant footage so you don’t record over it by mistake.
  • Connectivity: many cams will send important footage to your phone by Bluetooth or Wifi. This saves you the bother of disconnecting your device and removing it from your car to download recordings.
  • Remote Live View: this uses LTE mobile technology to allow you to view your car remotely in real time if someone else is driving it. Great for worried parents of new drivers!
  • Voice activation: while you don’t generally need to interact with your dash cam at all while driving, this feature means that you can start or stop recordings or send images to your phone without touching the screen. It helps you stay safe and legal while driving.
  • Channels: these refer to systems with more than one camera. So a single channel has just a front view camera, dual channel has front and rear view, and triple channel has an interior camera as well.
  • Driver assistance systems: the latest dash cams boast all sorts of added extras to help you drive safely. These include systems that warn you if your car is leaving its lane; if a vehicle is too close behind you; or if you’re too close to the vehicle in front. Such assistance could save you from committing a motoring offence that could cause an accident and see you requiring convicted driver insurance.

Chapter 8. How to install a dash cam quickly and easily

So now you’ve made your choice, you need to install your dash cam safely and securely in your vehicle. There are two methods to power a dash cam: by plugging it into your cigarette lighter socket, or by hardwiring it into your car’s electrics.
Plugging it in is simpler. It also makes your camera easier to remove: you can switch it between vehicles, or take it into your home for safe keeping.
Hardwiring is trickier, but makes your camera harder to steal. It enables you to use dash cam features such as automatic starting and stopping whenever you turn your engine on or off. It looks neater, and frees up your cigarette lighter socket for other devices.
Whichever way you choose, you should begin by securing your cam behind the rear view mirror using either double sided sticky tape or a suction cup. While the tape is more secure, it’s very hard to reposition – you need to get it right the first time! So most people use a suction cup instead due to its greater flexibility.
Your camera will come with a long cable, allowing you to feed it around the top of your windscreen and down the passenger side. In many cars, it’s possible to push the cable between the roof lining and the windscreen so that it can’t be seen.
The cable should be visible only for the last stage: when it stretches across the dashboard into the cigarette lighter socket.
Hardwiring your dash cam is a job for a skilled DIYer, or you can get it done quickly and cheaply by professionals. You’ll need a special kit, which might be included with your equipment, plus instructions.
It involves accessing the fuse box, which is usually next to or inside the glove box. You’ll need to remove a fuse, and replace it with the special socket that’s provided with your kit.
Then you must connect the earth cable to the chassis via a metal screw or bolt.
If you’re keen to give it a go, check out how-to videos on YouTube or from the relevant manufacturer.
Whichever method you choose, make sure your cameras are secured well and that the cables are tucked away safely. The last thing you want is for your dash cam to cause an accident! If you’re at fault, you could well receive a fine and points on your licence, and might need to take out convicted driver insurance.

9. Dashcam dos and don’ts

  • If you’re on a tight budget, prioritise video quality over any other smart features.
  • When choosing a dash cam, consider how big and bulky it is. Better to have a small, discreet one that doesn’t obstruct your view – even if it has fewer clever features.
  • Check the storage capacity of the memory card where your footage will be recorded. If it’s too low, you won’t be able to save much before it’s overwritten.
  • Get the right balance of video quality and recording capacity. Higher resolution images provide better evidence – but reduce the amount of space on your memory card.
  • If your insurance provider offers discounts for policyholders with dash cams installed, check that the model you’re using meets their criteria.
  • Choose your dash cam settings carefully before you drive off for the first time. If you need to alter them for any reason, pull over when it’s safe to do so and switch off your engine first. Otherwise, you could be stopped by police, issued with a fine and penalty points – and might need to contact the team at Insurance Factory for convicted driver insurance.
  • When positioning your dash cam, try to limit the amount of sky in view. Not only does this reduce your image of the road, but it also affects the light balance, making important footage too dark to see properly.
  • Keep your windscreen clean and your wipers working correctly. Of course, you should do this whether you’ve got a dash cam or not. But if your dash cam focuses on a speck of dirt or a drop of water, your image of the road will be blurred.

Have your say

We hope our definitive guide to dash cams has answered all your questions. If there’s anything we’ve missed, or you’ve got any further queries, do let us know.
And if you’d like further advice about getting back on the road after a brush with the law, contact us about our convicted driver insurance.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.