The increase in the number of dash cam videos that are being posted to social media has caused a lot of complaints, leading to many people wondering about legality. Unfortunately, the question isn’t as simple as “are dash cams legal”, at least not for people who drive on the continent as well as in the UK.
Dash Cam Legality in the UK
They are legal in the UK – indeed they are actually highly desirable to have, since police will review footage in the event of an accident, and some insurance companies offer discounts for people who have dashboard cams fitted.
As long as your camera does not block your view of the road, then it is legal to have it installed in your car. Cameras are frowned upon if they are used to intrude upon someone’s privacy, but that is not how a dash camera would be used – there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy” on public roads, and footage that shows how someone drives on the road could be of public interest in the event of an accident.
There are some limitations on the use of cameras, however. If you are a taxi driver, for example, then it is important that passengers are informed that there is a camera in the vehicle if that camera records sound. A clearly displayed notice is sufficient to cover this issue. Alternatively, make sure that the only thing you record is video.
It is important to note, however, that in mainland Europe there are restrictions on the use of dash cams. For example, it is legal to own and use a dash cam in Germany, but it is frowned upon to post videos online (YouTube typically removes German these videos), and it is at the judge’s discretion whether footage recorded by a in car camera will be admitted in court. Using a dashcam is illegal in Austria, where privacy laws are so strict that even Google Street View is banned. Motorists who use a dashcam could face fines of 10,000 euros for their first offence.
There are privacy debates going on in other parts of Europe, and the law surrounding things such as Google Glass and dash cams is constantly changing, so it is well worth doing some research before you travel. Note that law is not the only thing that changes from country to country. Some countries require motorists to have replacement bulbs, spare tyres and other basic pieces of repair kit in their car at all times, so you should take some time to inform yourself about road laws whenever you are planning a long driving trip in a foreign country.