Russia, a country where drivers need a dashboard camera

Wired explains why many Russian drivers have a dashboard camera – and no, it isn’t just to capture images of meteors.

The sheer size of the country, combined with lax — and often corrupt — law enforcement, and a legal system that rarely favors first-hand accounts of traffic collisions has made dash cams all but a requirement for motorists.

“You can get into your car without your pants on, but never get into a car without a dash cam,” Aleksei Dozorov, a motorists’ rights activist in Russia told Radio Free Europe last year…

Do a search for “Russia dash cam crash” in YouTube — or even better, Yandex.ru, the county’s equivalent of Google — and you’ll find thousands of videos showing massive crashes, close calls and attempts at insurance fraud by both other drivers and pedestrians. And Russian drivers are accident prone. With 35,972 road deaths in 2007 (the latest stats available from the World Health Organization), Russia averages 25.2 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people. The U.S., by comparison, had 13.9 road deaths per 100,000 people in the same year, despite having six times more cars.

A combination of inexpensive cameras, flash memory and regulations passed by the Interior Ministry in 2009 that removed any legal hurdles for in-dash cameras has made it easy and cheap for drivers to install the equipment.

The quick sociological take: a particular political and organizational setting leads to an incentive for having one’s own camera to provide evidence in possible accidents. I wonder if there is a segment of Russian law that now is about ensuring the footage of the camera is accurate, not doctored, and trustworthy in court.

The next logical question in my mind then is why don’t more American motorists have such devices? They can’t be that expensive and could be worthwhile in certain situations (although our law enforcement is presumably more trustworthy). At the least, YouTube viewers could benefit.

Trackers looking to trip up politicians

Hand-held cameras are cheap and plentiful today and they have become an important weapon in political campaigns.

A question: does using these cameras really enhance political campaigns or help voters end up with better politicians in office? There is little doubt they are effective but at what cost? Politicians are human – they are going to make mistakes on the campaign trail. Indeed, a politician who never makes a mistake in public is not being real in public. There are legitimate pieces of information that can emerge from such videos but at the same time, they often simply reveal unguarded moments that we all would have if we were constantly in the public eye.

Perhaps we have lost the capacity to show grace in the realm of politics. Some would argue this disappeared a long time ago.