MEMPHIS, TN (WMC/WXIX) - Police have been using dash cams for years, but more and more people are installing them in their cars for personal use. In the event of a crash, they could be the perfect eyewitness, but you should know that they're also recording you.
The cameras are mounted just like a police dash cam. It catches the action in front of the car. As the devices become more common, experts said they could lower insurance rates.
In a car crash, blame often comes down to finger pointing from the drivers.
It's such a simple solution, 100 bucks and it records everything, so there's no question then.
The footage from many cams is stored on SIM card, but others offer cloud storage.
The consumer dash cam craze started in Russia, where auto insurance scams were out of control and drivers wanted to prove they weren't responsible for hit-and-runs.
As an unexpected side effect, the dash cams also started catching crazy moments, like a fireball hurtling over the sky in Russia.
U.S. consumers are now catching up with the Russians, and there's a growing demand for the devices in the states.
Best Buy has a number of different dashboard cameras on store shelves. One maker calls its camera the "perfect eyewitness."
The devices retail for less than $150.
"If I were out in front of the car, the camera would pick that up," traffic officer Lt. Bruce Hoffbauer said.
Hoffbauer said in an accident, dash cam footage can be an investigative tool for police that could help decide who's at fault. But he has a warning for drivers.
"It could help police there, but we don't want the public to think that that's going to be their way to enforce the law when they see a violation," Hoffbauer said.
Other drivers might think dash cam video could be useful to dispute traffic tickets. On the flip side, if you cause a crash, the footage could work against you.
"From an insurance-related standpoint, might be beneficial to have," Mary Bonelli said.
Bonelli is with the Ohio Insurance Institute. She said right now, there are no insurance companies that offer discounts to customers with dash cameras in their vehicles, but she believes that could change.
"But as the technology advances and as insurers find a connection between crashes and a reduction in claims' costs, this will be re-visited," Bonelli said.
One last thing to consider: If your car will be sitting in the sun for hours each day, you may want to look at a camera that runs off your car's power rather than batteries, which perform poorly in extreme heat.