Dash cams are now de rigueur for taxi and bus drivers and have led to alternatively horrific and hilarious crash-porn videos on YouTube. Now they’re being used in England and Wales for crowdsourced reporting of bad drivers to the police.
The National Dash Cam Safety Portal (NDSP) allows people to upload video from dash cams, phones, or other devices, creating a streamlined way for motorists to rat out fellow drivers and for law enforcement to sort through videos and follow up if necessary.
Going video vigilante on rogue motorists isn’t new. BBC reports that the “rapid adoption of dash cams in recent years as well as the availability of cameras on mobile phones has left the police scrambling to keep up with a growing supply of road footage.”
Users can choose the region where the alleged infraction took place and send the footage as well as a witness statement that can be used in court directly to local police. “A process which previously took hours can now be reduced to a matter of minutes,” Superintendent Paul Moxley of West Mercia Police told the BBC.
The FAQ section of the NDSP adds that “police have always received complaints from members of the public about dangerous and anti-social driving. The NDSP has simply brought the process of reporting these incidents into the 21st century.”
But the NDSP, which was built by dash cam manufacturer Nextbase, is fraught with complications and also raises privacy concerns.
The Police Could Come After You
For example, if you break the law while reporting someone else doing the same, the police could come after you. The NDSP’s FAQ section notes that “the police will impartially review the footage which you submit and deal appropriately with all offences which may be disclosed.”
It adds that “if you were exceeding the speed limit in order to catch up with an offending driver and then proceeded to film them with your mobile phone whilst driving, the police would consider taking proceedings against you.” And don’t be tempted to post your video of a vehicle fail to Facebook or YouTube, since “footage should not be in the public domain as this may adversely affect subsequent proceedings,” the NDSP site warns.
It also could be a way for a road-raging driver to find out who turned them in. The NDSP site says that “in order to allow the Police to deal with the offender in an appropriate manner, you must provide a statement,” although this can be done online and “the offending driver will not be provided with your details.” But if the case goes to trial, “the offending driver will become aware of your name, but not your address or any other personal details.”
And while the urge to upload incriminating video evidence of scofflaw drivers may be tempting, it could be slippery slope for privacy. A spokesperson for Big Brother Watch told the BBC that “in rare cases, dash cam footage can help investigations but it is questionable whether that merits encouraging motorists to constantly film each other.”
“Whilst everyone wants safe roads,” the spokesperson added, “we should be cautious to avoid breeding a culture of citizen surveillance and suspicion.”