What is a Dash Camera and Is It Illegal?

What is a dash camera?

A dash cam, dashboard camera, driving recorder, or car DVR is a device that continuously records through the view of a vehicle’s front windshield. The primary purpose of a dash cam is to serve as a surveillance device and act as a second witness to events that happen on and off the road.

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How are Dash Cameras Installed?

Dash cams are usually mounted behind the rear view mirror to minimize obstruction of the driver’s view. Tucking in the wires in the right places allow for a wire-free setup.

For a more advanced installation, many users choose to install their dash cam with a hardwire kit. This type of installation will require tapping into your fuse box. This is the recommended installation method if you plan on running your dash cam 24/7 or with the parking mode feature enabled. Hardwire kits come with voltage protection and prevent battery discharge.

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krios mini dash camera

How Are Dash Cams Powered?

Dash cams are required to be plugged into a power source to function and can either be plugged into a cigarette or USB outlet. They are powered by either a lithium (li-ion) battery or a supercapacitor battery. But which one is better?

Lithium Ion Dash Cams

Lithium-ion batteries work by storing energy electrochemically. When charging your battery, electricity moves the lithium ions to a material called the high-energy anode compound. During use, these energy-filled lithium ions travels from the high energy anode through a separator, to the low-energy cathode material. This process releases the energy, which is then extracted into a circuit. Overtime, this cycle of charging and discharging causes the chemical compounds of the battery to slowly degrade. As a result, the battery will hold a lower power density and lose its ability to store energy.

Lithium-ion powered dash cams are generally not recommended for long term use and are far less durable when exposed to extreme temperatures. In addition, lithium-ion batteries pose a serious risk of explosion and fire under prolonged exposure to extreme heat.

Lithium ion battery schematic. How lithium ion batteries work.
Supercapacitor battery schematic. How supercapacitor batteries work.

Supercapacitor Dash Cams

Supercapacitors work differently than li-ion batteries. With supercapacitors, energy is stored electrostatically on the surface of the material with no chemical reactions involved. Supercapacitors charge quicker and provide a higher power density. Moreover, supercapacitors do not lose their ability to store energy over time. The drawbacks of it are that the materials used to make supercapacitors are more expensive and about 10 times larger than batteries for a given charge.

Because traditional lithium ion batteries degrade over time, especially when exposed to constant heat, we recommend getting a dash cam with a supercapacitor. It is much more durable and reliable given the conditions inside a vehicle year round. However, in most cases, supercapacitor based dash cams are more expensive.

Are Dash Cams Illegal?

In general, dash cams are perfectly legal in the U.S and Canada. Having a dash cam does not impede or break any laws. However, some states have one party laws where all participants in a conversation must consent to being recorded. If the participant(s) are not made aware of a conversation being recorded, a civil suit or criminal prosecution may be brought. It is important to inform your passengers in your car that audio is being recorded. Privacy laws are another issue you may want to look into. We highly recommend consulting with local state laws and regulations for more information.

Where Can I Place My Dash Cam?

We typically recommend placing your dash cam behind your rear view mirror to minimize obstruction of the driver’s view. Be aware that some states have certain laws and regulations on the the specific placement of objects on your windshield.

Can I Run My Camera While It’s Parked?

Running a camera while parked may cause issues in one party states. Recording interactions to which you are not a party of may impede on “one party” laws. We recommend checking with local state laws and regulations for more information.

police car

driving in snow

What Kind of Features Can I Expect?

The most basic feature of a dash cam is continuous loop recording. It is a unique feature found in surveillance cameras and allows for the device to continue recording even when the memory card becomes full. This is achieved by overwriting the earliest file when the card is full.

Over the years with advancements in technology, many dash cams have additional features that enhance the dash cam experience. Depending on the brand and model some of these features include: motion detection, recording while parked, motion detection, audio recording, gps tracking, 4g connectivity, Wi-fi connectivity, and more.

Why do I need a Dash Cam?

Dash cams have been proven to save drivers money over time. In cases of theft, road rage, accident or insurance fraud, dash cams have been able to provide video evidence of what has occurred. In some countries, having a dash cam can even save you on car insurance.

Top 5 Reasons Why You Need a Dash Cam >