Meteor highlights rise of dashboard cameras in Russia

A still from dashboard video recorded in neighbouring Kazakhstan shows the meteor which hit Russia, 15 February  This dashboard video recorded in neighbouring Kazakhstan was one of those that caught the meteor

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Footage of the meteor in Russia's Ural mountains on 15 February and the air crash at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport in December 2012 has highlighted the growing use of dashboard cameras in Russia.

Fitted in vehicles mainly for insurance purposes, the cameras store pictures on a hard drive in case of incident, and have provided a rich vein of material on social media and video-sharing websites.

The phenomenon went viral with "Driving in Russia", a 13-minute compilation video of crashes and unusual sights uploaded to the internet in early December 2012. Dash cam videos have become an addition to the popular "fail" genre.

On 29 December, the crash-landing of a Tupolev-204 aircraft was recorded on the dashboard camera of a car on a nearby motorway. Wreckage could be seen flying over the perimeter fence, and striking a car in front, and footage of the incident was widely used in news media.

Much of the video of the Urals meteor posted to social media came from dashboard cameras, usually accompanied by exclamations and expletives from surprised drivers. Other footage was obtained from camera phones and fixed CCTV cameras.

Staged accidents

Despite their growing cult status on YouTube and other video websites, dashboard cameras have a serious purpose, installed by Russian drivers in increasing numbers to fight the growing industry of insurance fraud.

Business Insider's Alex Davies notes that many courts no longer accept verbal evidence in the case of traffic disputes, so video evidence is essential to succeed in a claim.

According to Radio Liberty, drivers are using the cameras to fight back against Russia's notoriously corrupt traffic police, and scammers trying to extort money out of drivers. Criminal gangs can make up to $1,000 a day by staging accidents and forcing drivers into a quick settlement, it said.

Footage available on YouTube shows criminals loitering at road junctions, before hurling themselves at slow-moving vehicles, then confronting drivers and demanding compensation.

Dashboard cameras are not just restricted to Russia. Cameras are now appearing on roads in other countries, with some vehicle hire companies in the United Kingdom offering them as standard equipment, and hauliers to ensure the safety of their drivers.

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