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Where are dash cams legal and illegal and why?

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Before you plan on buying a dash cam, there is a question that may come into your mind: Are these devices legal in your state? While there aren’t any laws in place that prohibit the use of dash cams, some states in the US have some regulations such as where you should install a dash cam and how. Few states have restrictions on dash cams that also record audio. While we can say that the use of dash cams is federally legal, it may not be as simple as it looks.

Surveillance Issues with Dash Cams

A dash cam doesn’t just capture what happens outside of the vehicle and it’s one of the most serious issues with it. It can also record the audio conversations inside, meaning you can land into some serious legal troubles in several states.

While there won’t be any problem if you record your own audio in your car, in many states you are only allowed to record the audio conversation if you have the consent of only a single passenger. On the other hand, there are twelve states where it’s illegal and you’ll need the permission of every passenger inside the car who is part of the conversation. These states include:

  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Pennsylvania
  • Nevada
  • Washington
  • New Hampshire
  • Montana
  • Michigan

Fines and even prison time are potential punishments, as well as the inability to use those communications as testimony in court if you violate the law.

If you live in any of the states where this is prohibited, don't record audio conversations in your car with your dash cam unless everyone who is part of the conversation agrees. However, It is legal almost anywhere in the world to use a dash cam to monitor traffic and your driving behavior. This is known as sousveillance, which is the process of recording what you're doing.

Windshield Obstruction Issues

The amount of space dash cams cover on the windshield is the second big problem. There are different laws on this subject from one state to another. Windshield mount is prohibited in almost half of the states of the US. Just a few states mandate dash cams to be installed on the windshield if they cover less than 5-inch square on the driver's side and 7-inch square on the passenger’s side.

You can avoid this problem by using a kit that helps you to mount the dash cam to the dashboard rather than the windshield.

There are some jurisdictions with laws prohibiting the use of screens that can cause distractions to the driver. GPS and safety devices are allowed but it’s not clear how these laws are applied to dash cams as many dash cams are also equipped with GPS systems and have numerous safety features.

States that don’t allow windshield mounted dash cams include:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Maine
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming
  • Ohio
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Texas
  • Virginia.

Although a dash cam is a great piece of equipment that comes with a lot of benefits and security features, it’s always a good idea to review the laws of your state before you plan on getting one.

Dash Cams in Europe

Even though Europe accounts for nearly a half of the global demand for dash cams, several countries in the region have laws in place or completely banned these devices.

Almost every citizen in countries like Russia owns and uses dash cams in their cars because of the significant corruption in the police department, poor road conditions, increased rate of traffic incidents, and easy accessibility. However, in countries such as Luxembourg, Austria, and Portugal, dash cams or any other recording devices are illegal to use in public places and may result in penalties and heavy fines if you violate the law.

Using a dash cam in Spain and the UK is also perfectly legal but it should not obstruct the driver’s view through the windshield so you need to follow some rules. You can also use the dash cams in other European countries like Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Malta, Bosnia, the Netherlands and Serbia - but each country has its own laws considering the privacy and the evidence in court.

France and Belgium, on the other hand, have restricted the dash cams to private use only. Users are also not allowed to upload the recorded content online. Recently, Germany approved the law that accepts recordings from a dash cam as evidence, but it should be presented in court in a way that it doesn’t compromise someone else’s privacy in the footage.

Dash Cams in Asia

When it comes to dash cams in Asia, China remains on top with the biggest market share, but other countries in the region are also experiencing significant growth. China has become the world's largest car market and its large number of drivers use dash cams in their cars. It has seen a growth of over 20% in the past few years but this figure is expected to grow. To put it simply, the use of dash cams will rise with the increasing number of vehicles.

Over the past few years, South Korea and India have also seen a sharp increase in car sales, which means more people will use dash cams and the dash cam market has significant potential to grow. Countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia have road safety and vehicle theft problems and a lot of people there have employed dash cams for safety.

In Japan, however, the case is different where dash cams are primarily used for commercial applications. Car rental and taxi firms use dash cams to check on the drivers and make sure they don’t engage in notorious driving practices. Police in Japan also uses dash cams for monitoring and surveillance.

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