Third Eye – Rise Of The Dashcam

It’s a fact of life that car accidents happen and, by and large, we don’t have a lot of control over the when and where. Certainly, we do our best to drive carefully and stay safe but, well, the clue’s in the word. These days, innocent motorists are also cursed by the scourge of ‘cash for crash’ scams. Collisions caused accidentally on purpose for crooked gain. Either way we are likely to end up at best exchanging details and, at worst, arguing with thugs in the street. The solution is to deploy a third eye which is why DriveWrite has been trialling two affordable dashcams from the RAC.

Dash, or car, cameras aren’t new obviously but of late they have been improving in quality and useability and for peace of mind they should be part of every motorists arsenal.  Imagine how the more vulnerable drivers amongst us would fare against the bullying tactics of ‘cash for crash’ gangs. Basically, it’s your word against theirs – unless you can prove otherwise.

Cameras come in all shapes and sizes and prices but in my view it isn’t necessary to spend a fortune: after all, you’re not shooting Lord of the Rings, you’re helping to protect your car insurance reputation. If you want to shoot a road trip in its entirety then look elsewhere. The way these RAC devices work is different, as set out below. I have also included a couple of raw, unedited video files by way of demonstration and, inevitably and as is always the way, absolutely nothing of note happened all the time I tested them, so the movies are a bit boring I’m afraid. Fortunately they are mercifully short. They do however show an excellent view of what’s about to unfold in front of you thus proving their worth.

RAC 01 CARCAM

This is the basic RAC model. Video files are recorded and stored on a SD card in units of 1, 3 or 5 minutes. When the card is full, the results are overwritten and the cycle continues. In the event of a shunt, however caused and however minimal, the device will freeze and save that segment, which can subsequently be viewed on the screen or downloaded as evidence. Both models are simple to set-up and operate. RAC 01 has these features:

  • Automatic incident detection for recording accidents
  • Records your drive in 720p HD video day/night
  • 120 degree wide angle view
  • G-Sensor records direction, force, impact, turns and acceleration
  • Photo mode enables you to capture still images
  • Position the camera in any direction with the mounting cradle
  • Automatic video overwrite if option selected
  • Includes a mini USB cable and 8GB MicroSD card
  • Manually save segments to capture near-misses or examples of outrageous driving.

RAC 02 CARCAM

This more advanced model has all of the above plus some additional features, most important of which is the addition of GPS connectivity which, in playback mode, shows your exact position. You should note that it also shows your speed. Don’t say I didn’t mention this. These are all the features:

  • Automatic incident detection for recording accidents
  • Records your drive in full HD 1080p video day & night
  • 170° wide angle view
  • G-Sensor records direction, force, impact, turns and acceleration
  • Photo mode enables you to capture still images
  • Position the camera in any direction with the mounting cradle
  • Automatic video overwrite if option selected
  • Includes a mini USB cable and 8GB MicroSD card
  • GPS
  • Manually save segments to capture near-misses or examples of outrageous driving.

Both devices come complete with everything you need in the box and can be purchased online from the RAC shop here. At the time of writing they are on offer at a special price too.

For info, they also record sound. When Mrs DriveWrite and I first used RAC 01 the mic was on and all sound, including our conversation, was recorded loud and clear. This was especially noticeable when seeing an incidence of bad driving. The language was salty to say the least. Why, I might even have tutted myself. The mic can be turned off if required. The point of sound though is to augment the recording, in that if something suspicious seems to be happening, you can also provide a running commentary. Just be mindful, that’s all I’m saying, because any video segment that is saved will include speech.

Image quality is good but as the skies darken, so does the image, but not overtly to the detriment of being able to see what’s happening. In any event, in bad weather or at night, you’ll have your lights on anyway, thus illuminating the incident. Should you need to, the video can also be enhanced easily with software that is probably already on your computer.

Verdict

I’m sold. I now use a dashcam on all trips. It lives in the car and takes just a tick to install on the windscreen, paying due attention to correct siting for visibility and the like. Rather than taking it off at the end of every trip the RAC will hard-wire it into your car for just £70. It’s a thought.

As I mentioned above, these devices are not toys. They have a function and that is to provide evidence if the worst should happen. Your insurance company and, subsequently, your bank account will thank you for it. The kits could also have a beneficial effect on your premiums too. You know it makes sense. These car cams are well made, sturdy and do a good job which is why presumably the RAC are prepared to put their name on them.

Geoff Maxted