Dash cameras are popular, but are they worth the cost?

- Dash cameras have been an essential tool of law enforcement for decades, but increasing numbers of people are opting to adopt the technology for their personal vehicles.

But with any emerging technology, it’s hard to figure out if the expenditure is worth the money and what product is right for the use.

The popularity comes from the potential to capture before unseen moments in everyday life. Americans spend a lot of time on the road, and increasing amounts of time on the internet – where digital video is in its hay day. The allure of capturing a collision, meteor streaking across the sky, plane crash, or sinkhole draws many who install a dash cam.

But will the expense of having video documentation help you in your daily life? One Bay Area couple says, ‘Yes,’ after a near miss in a Tampa school zone.

“The video was amazing. This big truck was turning. [The] guy behind thought he had the light and blew through and missed my wife by feet. It was so close!” exclaimed avid dash cam user Mike Dwyer.

He and his wife both have dash cameras rolling, in case of moments like that.

“I bought mine on Ebay for 35 bucks,” Dwyer said, adding the memory card was another $10. “This little flashcard, I just press and I have the card in my hand.”

So for a $50 investment, Dwyer says he has peace of mind on the road. And that's exactly how manufacturers are marketing dash cams - as eyewitnesses.

At Best Buy, employees say the eyewitness factor is what drives their sales.

“Where it's really becoming prevalent is in that accident-type situation, and you want to make sure you're ok and covered from your side; to be able to say, ‘I was doing the right thing and here's that video that shows that,’” said James Murphy, manager at Best Buy.

Murphy said prices in his store range from $100 to $500. He says you might get a better video quality as you go up in price, but it's really the extra features that drive up the cost so dramatically. For example, some models come with GPS and safety sensors that warn you when you swerve out of your lane.

When deciding how much to spend, consider the screen size and how long you want it to roll before looping over. But one thing you won't get right now is a discount. Insurance companies in the United States don't offer discounts for using one, although many accept footage when trying to prove you're not at fault in an accident.

“Certainly real-time video is the best time evidence that any attorney could have,” says personal injury lawyer Robert Sparks.

But he points out; a camera on your dash won't necessarily catch the most common crashes.

Sparks says, “A great majority are accidental rear-end. If you're the victim, you’re hit from behind.”

What you will get is evidence, insight into how your kids are driving, or a video that goes viral - and makes you famous! 

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