Dashcams have become one of the primary forms of evidence relied upon in motor vehicle accidents and other motoring-related incidents, from recording the cause of an accident to ascertaining who is ultimately liable in the event of insurance claims or even lawsuits. With their visual record, dashcams have also assisted in reducing instances of corruption by police officials.
But more than this, dashcams have borne witness to many other forms of misconduct, such as theft, striking, public violence and assault, trespassing, and even hijacking. Currently, there is no law clarifying whether dashcams are legal or whether their footage may be used in legal proceedings. In reality, however, the audio-visual evidence they provide has been used in many lawsuits for more than cases involving vehicles or traffic offences. The same goes for video evidence obtained via CCTV or cell phone recordings.
If video evidence is reliable and is obtained within the confines of the law, there is no reason why it should not be used and why such footage recording other forms of illegality may not be relied upon. Given the number of instances of criminal activity taking place in South Africa, dash cams have become beneficial not only for driver safety and insurance reasons.
In the agricultural sector, for example, dashcam footage can be used to prove instances of employee misconduct, trespassing livestock, damage to property, theft, and other such misconduct found in a farming environment. Some farmers even install dashcams in their tractors to monitor how the machinery is being operated or when needing to drive on the national roads.
In instances of employees misusing equipment or misconducting themselves, or where the recordings happen to capture other incidents nearby, the recordings may thus be utilised in disciplinary proceedings or other applicable forums.
Before relying on dashcam footage, however, bear in mind that the degree to which such video evidence may be allowed will depend on the court’s discretion. Moreover, the onus may rest on the owner of the footage to prove that it has not been tampered with, for example, that it has not been transmitted elsewhere and the video remained with the car.
It is also worth mentioning, given the application of the Protection of Personal Information Act of 2013 and the Cybercrimes Act of 2020, that when you have a dashcam that records your passengers, you give them notice that they are being recorded and limit the use and sharing of such footage. This is because the privacy of individuals is highly regulated in terms of these pieces of legislation.
Footage obtained via dashcam is thus used in more than just the context of road-related incidents. It is advisable that individuals use this technology as a readily available source of security and a reliable source of evidence where needed.