Dash Cams Are Legal in California - Should You Add One to Your Vehicle?

Dash Cams Are Legal in California - Should You Add One to Your Vehicle?

Every year, Californians drive 13,636 miles each. That’s 4,273 miles more than the national average of 9,363 miles annually -- about 1.5 times the number of miles driven by the average American each year.

With all of these additional miles driven every year, it could put you at a heightened risk of being involved in a collision.

In 2018, there were 3,563 traffic-related fatalities in California, which also amounts to 1.13 fatalities per 100 million miles driven. While this is slightly lower than the U.S. average of 1.25 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, traffic accidents and collisions still pose a considerable threat to Californians who hit the highway each day.

With injury-causing collisions happening so frequently, many drivers are employing the use of dashboard cameras, also called “dash cams” or “dashcams” to protect themselves in the event of an accident. In fact, the use of dash cams was up 20 percent in 2018 from the previous year. Some even come equipped with motion sensors to record a hit-and-run incident when your car is parked in a parking lot.

So should you add a dashboard camera to your vehicle? Let’s take a look at the benefits and what you need to know about California law before you install a dash-mounted camera in your car or truck.

Reasons to Consider a Dash Camera

While car insurance companies don’t offer discounts if you install a dash cam in your vehicle, there are certainly quite a few benefits to using one. How can you benefit from the use of a dash cam? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Have a record of your accident and save yourself from being found at fault in the event of a collision.
  • Get out of a ticket if you’re stopped for a traffic violation you didn’t commit.
  • Help in the fight against insurance fraud if you witness a collision that was a “crash for cash” situation.
  • Monitor your teenage driver’s driving habits.
  • Keep an eye on your vehicle whenever it’s unattended.
  • Capture other unexpected events or crimes.

Whether you’re concerned about your teen’s speeding habits or their other unsafe driving habits or you’re hoping to protect yourself in the event of a collision that wasn’t your fault, a dash cam really can come in handy to support your best interest. It might be a good idea to install one.

The Nitty-Gritty of California Dash Cam Laws

Dash cams come with lots of benefits, but like any other feature on your vehicle, there are state laws in place to ensure that your dash cam is safe and used appropriately. What does California law say about installing a dashboard-mounted cam?

Placement of Your Dash Camera

California is one of 12 states with visibility windshield obstruction restrictions on where and how much of your windshield can be covered by your dash cam.

In California, you can use video recording devices in your car so long as they are installed in the proper place. Most often, these cameras are attached to your car’s windshield and only can be placed in one of several locations. According to California law, where can you install your dash cam?

  • Outside the range of airbag deployment
  • Located in a seven-inch-square area at the lower right-hand corner of the windshield
  • Attached to the lower left-hand corner of your windshield covering no more than five square inches
  • Affixed to the upper center of your windshield taking up no more than five square inches

Your Camera’s Recording Capabilities

California dash cams record a digital loop that contains both audio and video information. Dash cams also are able to record your driving speed, direction, seat belt usage, and steering and brake events.

In California, a crash or detected “unusual motion” of your vehicle can trigger your camera to start recording, or you also can turn on the dash cam manually yourself. However, it’s important to know that your recorder cannot store more than 30 seconds of data before and after an event triggers the camera to start recording.

Dash Cam Audio Recording Laws in California

Most people think of dash cams in terms of capturing visual footage when a collision occurs, but most dash cams also come equipped to record audio as well. This raises privacy concerns and can cause legal issues if you have passengers in your car who are not aware that you have a dash cam that captures audio.

What does this mean if you elect to install a dashboard camera? California is one of 12 states that requires the consent of both parties for audio recording. You are required to inform your passengers that you have a dash cam and that it may record any conversations that may transpire between you and your passengers.

Additionally, you must post a notice that you are using a dash cam that captures audio. And if your passenger doesn’t consent? You must turn off and disengage your dash cam and/or the audio features.

Can Your Dash Cam Footage Be Used in Court?

If any kind of traffic incident goes to court, who has access to the footage? Can it be used in court?

According to legal experts, either party can use footage recorded via a dash-mounted camera:

“In every jurisdiction across the country—including all federal and state courts—any video or audio recording captured by the cameras likely would be considered discoverable information in litigation and would have to be produced to the complaining party”—James J. Franklin

It’s also important to note that some laws may require you to preserve your dash cam recordings for a certain amount of time following a collision or incident such as a pedestrian accident, or you could be open to legal action if you delete or destroy the dash-cam footage.

What does this mean for you? No matter what happens, you should contact a qualified attorney to advise you on what to do with any recordings from your dash-mounted camera following an accident, especially if you’ve been injured.

At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we’re here to protect your best interests, and navigating a personal injury suit involving dash-cam recordings is no different.

We take a unique approach to getting you the assistance you need when you’ve been injured: We’re honest, we care and we advocate only for the seriously injured so you get the help you deserve. Our attorneys never pass you off to a paralegal, inflate claims or push to go to trial to increase our fees. Instead? We’ll put your interests first.

If you’ve been injured in a traffic collision or if you’ve got a question about how your dash camera footage will play into your injuries, we want to help. Contact us today for a free, no-risk online evaluation of your case.

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Caique S.

"I was struck by someone who ran a red light. Busted my knee, almost totaled my brand new car, and brought me a lot of troubles. After negotiating with an adjuster and being offered $200 bucks as compensation for my knee pain. I decided I needed a lawyer. I am so glad I contacted Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. Rebecca called me just minutes after I had reached out to them. Communication was very easy and I was aware of everything that was going on throughout the whole case. They really helped me get through one of the worst times of my life. I am 100% satisfied with the way I was treated and the outcome of my case. If you need a good team of lawyers on your side, look no further! Thank you very much Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers!"

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