Ask LH: What Are The Legal Issues When Using A Dashcam?

Dear Lifehacker, I was wondering what the legalities of using a dashcam are. They are great for recording incidents for insurance to prove something wasn't your fault. But how do they stand up in court if you use it to contest a speeding fine? And can the police use your existing footage to fine you further?

For example, if I accidentally was speeding three hours prior and the camera recorded my speed and location, can they issue a fine for that, or even go through the footage? Thanks, Dashed If I Know

Speeding picture from Shutterstock

Dear Dashed,

In the majority of circumstances, car cameras are perfectly legal to use in Australia. The only real exception is if you use it to record a private act (such as inside a garage or building). Naturally, you also need to ensure that the cam doesn't obstruct your vision and adhere to the same GPS/phone mount rules that apply in your state. Basically, this amounts to not fiddling with the device while driving.

As far as we know, there's nothing stopping you from submitting dashcam footage as supporting evidence if you wish to contest a speeding fine. After all, the whole point of a dashboard camera is to provide an unbiased record of an incident. Whether your untested device will find favour in court over official police equipment is another matter, however.

There's also the problem of retaining your footage -- speeding fines often take a couple of weeks to reach the driver, by which time you may have recorded over the relevant date and time. It's therefore a good idea to retain copies of your car footage for at least a month or two.

In regards to the second part of your question, I've never heard of an incident where police went through a civilian's dashcam footage in the off-chance of finding a driving offense. The police generally don't have time to sift through hours of random video if there's no compelling evidence of a crime.

That's not to say it could never happen though. We'd advise using the "I've already wiped it" excuse if the police ever requested your dashcam footage and you have reason to feel nervous.

See also: DIY Car Dash Camera Mount | Turn Your Camera Phone Into A Police-Style Dash Cam | Helmet-Cam Captures Bike Accidents

Cheers Lifehacker

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    And I'd advise not bloody well speeding in the first place, that way you won't have to worry about it.

      Absolutely. In all the years I've been driving, I make a conscious effort to stay at least 2 - 3 k's under the speed limit wherever I drive. Not saying it's 100% effective? I'm sure I've gone over at times accidentally? But no speeding fines *yet*. I'd rather be a tiny bit slower and safer than out of pocket or out of life.

        Why don't you just do the speed limit?

        "Drivers" who travel under the speed limit because they insist it is "safer" are the ones causing accidents.

          2-3km would not make a difference. the circumstances you would be referring to would be people going 10-20km under the legal limit, not 2-3km.

            I know, but the above poster is demonstrating a similar mentality - though not as extreme - it's still relevant to mention.

          It's a LIMIT, not a TARGET

            Yes, set accordingly for the conditions of the road. If you don't feel comfortable doing the advised speed then you probably shouldn't be driving at all. Lack of confidence behind the wheel is a huge issue. I'm not suggesting over-confidence is a good thing, either.

              But if it is wet you should lower your speed. I drive an AWD Subaru and still drive under the limit in the wet. Wet roads make driving a completely different ballgame.

                Yes, but nobody mentioned variables. I also drive an AWD Subaru, and in an 80 zone, I do 80. I feel comfortable with my car, the conditions, and my ability to drive at the limit posted. There are times where I do not (heavy rain/fog) and I adjust my speed accordingly.

              Again, it is NOT the advised speed at all. What it is, is the speed LIMIT.
              This means you are allowed to drive slower if you like (to a point) but not faster than, no requirement to drive at that exact speed.

              Maybe you need a dictionary and resit your driving test?

                No you do not have to drive the speed limit. BUT its also now an offence in victoria at least to drive more than 10km/h under the speed limit.
                Also, The speed limits are based upon varying factors which include road condition/weather/obstructions etc.
                The speed limit is safe to drive at in most conditions, So why not drive the speed limit?

          Because I'm REALLY sure you've sat behind a car EVER and said 'GOD you're going ONE KILOMETER UNDER... CHRIST!!!!'

            To quote. You actually said I make a conscious effort to stay at least 2 - 3 k's under the speed limit.

            Why? While you think you're being responsible, it really makes no difference. The speed limits have been set accordingly for the conditions of the road, and are often understated to cater for all driver levels.

            By saying that you'd rather be slower for your own benefit is fairly ignorant, and also selfish - you're not the only one on the road - and other people may not be as understanding to your ideals of "safety". Just do the speed limit, it's not hard, it's not scary, it's the safe thing to do.

              Uh... huh lol. No. Not at all. If you sit right on 80, chances are, if your speedo is even a tiny bit over, you're going to go over, when you hit a downhill, you're going to go over. I fail to see your logic how going 2 kilometers under will cause an accident. There's no logic there at all. Don't like the fact Im doing 78 in an 80 zone? Go into the right lane and overtake me. There's rarely an 80 zone where it's single lane, rarely. That's what the right lane is for, overtaking, though I'm guessing going by your illogical rant, you probably sit in the right lane and drive there endlessly. Really living up to the origins of your name there 'Thrillhouse'...

                Actually, not quite. Speedometer discrepancies do go both ways (it can read under or over). When I go downhill I go into a higher gear, and brake accordingly, it's not rocket science. I'm not saying I've never gone over the limit (no one can) - I'm saying it's pretty easy to just do the posted speed - as that's what the roads and traffic authority have set accordingly.

                Yes, I will overtake you. But I can't even count on my fingers the amount of times I've tried to speed up to a safe merging speed when entering a freeway or similar, and have the clown in front dawdling along, and then dangerously pull out in front of a car doing the speed limit. I'm stuck behind that idiot and now I've got to somehow safely integrate with fast moving traffic, all because of this persons mentality of "safer is slower" - that's what I'm getting at. You'll find a majority of cars on the road are doing the posted limit - which causes issues when the minority decide not to. I'm not saying your particular example is an issue, in fact I wouldn't even notice a few kilometers. But it's the same mentality ("I'll happily sit under the speed limit because I'm the only one on the road") that bothers me, and raises genuine safety issues.

                How is my rant illogical? In fact, how am I "ranting". I'm providing my own opinion, as I'm entitled, and encouraged to do so on a public forum. Don't like it? That's fine, but don't get so up in arms about it.

                Also, I like the little attack on my username, which really adds to your argument, perfect. It's a reference to The Simpsons. I thought you'd know that going by your avatar. Sadly I'm not too knowledgable on children's cartoons, so I have no intelligent insult to direct at your username Mr. Smurf.

                Last edited 01/07/13 8:34 am

                  Incorrect. Speedometers cannot legally under-read.

              What a class A tosser you are mate. The speed limit is a MAXIMUM speed not a OBLIGATED speed. Seems as though YOU are the real ignoramus here. It's not like 'weresmurf' is driving 20km's/hr slower than the speed limit, is it? He/she is driving 2-3 K's slower! I'm gonna take a punt and say you're probably the bloke who sits on people's arses because they're not quite doing the speed you'd like them to. Am I close???

                Almost! If they're staying in the right hand lane (the passing lane) with no real reason to be, then yep I'm not a happy camper! ;)

              Nothing to do with safety, speedo accuracy is a big point and going just 2-3km/h over you get booked.

                I've heard Police take this into consideration, and you'll find they are lenient with speedometer discrepancies - I've never heard of someone being done for a 2-3km'h difference to be honest. I've never been able to test this theory, though, in fact I've never had a speeding fine (maybe I'm just lucky)

      I hate this sort of reply. How many times do you come off a road that is posted 80 into a similar road that is not posted for at least 500 meters and then find out that road is 60km/h. I find this is very common in regional areas but can even occur in suburban areas. Example: Coming off the M7 and onto the M5 or vice versa where one is 110km/h and the other which has the same number of lanes is only posted 100km/h. In this case the signage is quite good and not a problem, however there are many roads where similar roads intersect without signage.

      Get off your high horse and fall back into the real world where people dont drive like machines and information isn't just a click away.

        and information isn't just a click away.

        Internet... smartphones. Just sayin'.

        By law, if there is a change of speed, when you turn onto another road or carriageway, there has to be a speed limit sign clearly displaying the new limit.
        If there isn't, and you get fined, you have a reasonable chance to get it waived, if you provide supporting evidence, as long as you are still within legal limits for your state - ie: not doing 130 km/h etc

        If a sign is turned away or obscured (say by overhanging tree branches), take a photo of it, preferably with a smart phone, so the EXIF data shows the compass heading and gps details.
        Even if the Police do not waive it straight off, the court most likely will.

        Last edited 28/06/13 2:20 am

          that isn't the case.

          i got done, i came from a 60 zone, into a 40 zone for no reason at all (a "shopping" zone that was 2 kays up the road) and i got done

      If your contesting a speeding fine. You were not speeding in the first place.

        Or you were unaware that you were speeding and require supporting evidence to counter your own claim before judgment.

        I know people who contest the fines all the time who know they speed, they just don't want to pay.

    We had police go through footage of an accident we recorded (lots of motorbikes, most had helmet cams). Initially it was just to review the accident, but they did go through our footage and advised we had all been speeding well before beforehand. Because of the accident they chose not to book us (lesson learn't).... probably helped it was overseas, so too much paperwork for them.

      ...and this is the actual point. What can and can't be used. In terms of legislation it is a big fat grey area.

    Police won't look at your video unless you give it to them. or if you upload the video yourself to YouTube like some idiots do.

    Like any evidence collection they would need a warrant, yes?
    As for determining if you were speeding. I don't think your calibrated speedometer is going to stand up to a calibrated instrument. Just make sure the police produce a calibration report before you pay, if they can't they can't prove that the speed recorded is accurate (by demonstrating that the instrument has a calibration certificate that was in date at the time and traceable to an independent and certified calibration laboratory) and can't charge you. Same for any other instruments used to determine infringements and issue fines for law enforcement purposes.

      Its difficult to call a cars speedo calibrated. Unless you have taken the vehicle to get certified yourself, manufacturers are allowed an error margin of 10% as per ADR regs. I could easily be doing 110 in a 100 zone and claim innocence. Unfortunately this does not stand up in court.

        Similar to other laws like tying down loads, functioning lights, correctly maintained tyres etc it is the responsibility of the driver of the vehicle at the time the alleged offence occurs to ensure the vehicle is complaint. I don't understand why a speedo error of 10% exists as compliant or why they can ping your for that but them the rules as bizarre or as stupid as they are.

        Some countries and states allow a 10% over the limit tolerance to compensate for the inaccuracy, while in Victoria, it's 3km/h no matter the speed.

        Actually, current design rules state the speedo can *overread* by up to 10%, but not under-read. This is for any cars after some point in the 80s (can't remember exactly when).

        Basically, if your speedo says 100km/hr, you can actually be doing anything from 90 - 100, but no more.

          this is ONLY for vehicles produced after 1 july 2007, for vehicles produced before that (july 1987 - 30 june 2007) a 10% "error" is allowed, for vehicles before that date, no speedo is required.

          also, not all cars can be calibrated correctly

        My bad, I meant uncalibrated. Point still stands.

      You can test this very easily with almost any GPS-enabled smartphone.

    Obviously you would chop all unnecessary footage... derp.

      That could be construed as destroying evidence though.

    Sorry, my comment was intended for the US. LOL

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