Meet the new traffic 'witness'
Demand for vehicle cameras increasing by 15 to 50 per cent yearly, say distributors. -TNP
Watch it - because you're being watched. Not only on cameras set up by police at traffic junctions and on the streets but, increasingly, in cars.
One motorist, sales executive Goh Keng Guan, 40, has installed cameras in his and four of his family's cars.
One in 50 car insurance claims is now accompanied by video evidence, double that of a year ago, said Mr Pan Jing Long, head of general insurance at Aviva Singapore.
Distributors reported that demand for vehicle cameras has been increasing by between 15 and 50 per cent yearly.
In the past week alone, in-car camera videos from two accidents were posted on YouTube, citizen journalism website Stomp and other forums.
Last Tuesday morning, a cabby's camera captured a 66-year-old woman, Madam Chan Ah Ying, being knocked down and killed by a bus in Sengkang while she was crossing a traffic light junction.
The following night, footage from the aftermath of an accident - a cyclist trapped under a car at Jalan Bukit Merah - was posted on YouTube.
The motorist who posted the second video said that he is always on the lookout for newer technologies that would allow him to capture his surroundings, especially while on the road.
It all started when he posted photos on Stomp of a Nissan Skyline which had knocked down a woman at Beach Road in September 2010.
The 37-year-old motorist, who wanted to be known only as JT, said: "The accident was fatal and I felt for that poor woman.
"If I had video footage, it would perhaps have helped the police to prove that the driver involved was indeed racing with another Audi car that disappeared from the scene."
He then bought an in-car video recorder for S$299 to be his "witness" on the road.
He said: "I hope that I never have to use it but these days, you can never be sure. As safe as you are as a driver, there are a lot more inconsiderate and reckless drivers out there.
"The guilty party should never get away with it while the innocent ones should not be framed."
Another motorist, Mr Alvin Ng, 34, has become a firm "film buff" after an incident on an expressway last April.
The other driver cut in front of Mr Ng's Honda Stream and jammed his brakes.
After the accident, the other motorist tried to claim S$18,000 from MrNg's insurance company for medical bills and S$12,000 for repairs to his car. The case has yet to be settled.
Said Mr Ng: "That was a very bad experience for me. It left a sour taste in my mouth."
When the civil servant bought a new Peugeot 407 two weeks later, he immediately installed a camera. "If I had a camera, it would have been very obvious that he was trying to provoke me," he said.
Three insurance companies contacted by The New Paper said that while video evidence is not required in submitting claims, it is useful in assessing liability.
Mr Pui Phusangmook, general manager of the general insurance division of NTUC Income, said the company would ask policyholders if they have such evidence to support their claims.
"The rule of thumb is that the more evidence there is, the more accurate the reports will be," he said.
In-car video cameras
A spokesman for insurance firm Etiqa said it encourages policyholders to install in-car video cameras.
He said: "With the recorded footage, we are not only able to view how accidents occur but also information like the exact location, road and weather condition."
The cameras cost between S$100 and S$400.
Mr Marcus Tan, director of Eureka Plus - which sells the MARC car camera - said technology has vastly improved in the five years since it started selling in-car cameras.
Previous cameras would even be in black and white, or just 320 pixels, as compared to the present high definition models, he said.
Increasing awareness and affordability have also led to the increase in demand for in-car cameras, said MsAmy Hoi, business development executive at Bio-Cognitive Solutions, which offers the
Recodia dual-channel camera.
She said: "When we first started out more than two years ago, it was s$380 for a single camera car recorder. Now, the prices for our single and dual camera car recorders are from $290 to $399."
Distributors said the cameras are also helpful in vandalism cases.
Mr Gary Chia, product manager of Wow! Gadgets, said customers would install one to four camera units per car - with victims of vandalism installing three or four units to ensure all angles were covered.
In the first three months this year, at least five customers have caught vandals with the company's BlackVue cameras, he claimed.
A motorist, who wanted to be known as Mr Goh, installed a camera last December after his car was scratched.
'It's about being protected'
"It's about being protected. This camera can do a lot of things - if people break in, if people hit and run, if they knock your car while parking, I'm able to get the offender," he said.
Just last month, a car hit Mr Goh's Volkswagen GTI and drove off. Even if Mr Goh had failed to catch up with the driver, he needn't have worried as his in-car camera captured the other car's licence plate number.
Lawyer Gloria James of Gloria James-Civetta & Co said footage from these cameras has been increasingly showing up in court, compared to two years ago.
She said: "During prosecution, if the 'victim' feels that the investigation officer (IO) is not proceeding to charge the 'accused', this footage evidence has to be mentioned and produced to the IO.
"It can be produced at the Magistrate's Complaint Stage too."
On the other hand, if an IO does not take footage evidence into consideration and an accused is charged, he can opt to claim trial and produce this evidence, she said.
Footage evidence can also be used to prosecute aperson.
Ms James cited one client who had a tailgater flashing his high beams and pursuing him for almost 10 minutes.
Her client called the traffic police, produced the video and the tailgater was issued with a warning.
But lawyer Patrick Yeo of KhattarWong cautioned that evidence could cut both ways.
He said: "If a person has a camera and chooses not to present footage to the court, the court will ask him about it, as he's not giving full disclosure."
But even if the camera doesn't capture accidents or vandals, users like Mr Terence Kang are happy.
Said the 41-year-old sales executive who installed a camera in his Toyota Vios three weeks ago: "It reminds me to be a safer driver. Before installation, I didn't care about cutting in front of other cars.
"Knowing the camera is there capturing my car's every move, I'm more careful. Really, it's for the protection of myself and other drivers out there."
This article was first published in The New Paper.
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