Dash Cams: The Perfect Eyewitness or An Invasion of Privacy?

Last week, a passenger plane tragically crashed into a river in Taiwan. Within hours, a video emerged on the internet depicting the terrifying final seconds of the flight, as seen from the dash cam of a passing vehicle. In Russia, dash cams have become a mainstay for virtually all cars on the road, to guard against insurance fraud and police corruption. In Canada though, dash cams are just starting to catch on and become less expensive and more widely commercially available.

A “dash cam” is a small camera that mounts to a vehicle’s dashboard or windshield, and automatically records continuous video of the road ahead. In the event of an accident, a dash cam could be a definitive source of evidence as to who was at fault – provided of course that the relevant information was within the line of sight of the camera’s lens. In many cases, where matters such as the colour of a traffic signal, the condition of a highway, or the presence of another vehicle are in dispute, a dash cam would leave little doubt as to the facts. Human memories are frail and can fade with time, and eyewitnesses sometimes seem to have observed entirely different versions of events, even when their viewpoints were similar. If every vehicle on the road had a dash cam, there would be much less room for argument over who was at fault for a collision.

At the same time, dash cams are seen by some critics as yet another form of surveillance and an invasion of personal privacy. In Switzerland, where data protection laws are very stringent, dash cams have been outlawed altogether.

It remains to be seen whether dash cams will proliferate in Canada. But if they do, it could considerably change the landscape of fault determination when accidents happen on our roads.

About the Authors


Adam Little earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto in 1996. He graduated from Queen’s University Faculty of Law in 2000 and was called to the bar in 2002. Adam was practicising on Bay Street for a leading Toronto litigation firm that represented doctors in medical malpractice claims when he realized that helping people through personal injury litigation was what he wanted to do. “I wanted to work for the best,” he said. A partner at Oatley Vigmond had written the best-known book available about addressing jury trials, which Adam had read and admired. He wrote to the partner, went through an intense interview process and became a partner at the firm in 2005.

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