Why are there so many dash-cam videos of the meteor?

February 15, 2013

The meteor that exploded over Russia and injured nearly 1,000 people this morning was astonishingly well documented by amateur videographers, and many of the videos seem to have been captured from the dashboards of cars, like these:


All of the available footage raises the question, why do so many Russians have dashboard cameras?

Answer: to prove who was at fault in car accidents.

Basically, Russia's motorists are a different breed. Russia has one of the highest car-accident rates in the world, a fact that Dmitry Medvedev, the former president and current prime minister, once blamed on the “undisciplined, criminally careless behavior of our drivers,” as well as poor road conditions. Hit-and-run crashes are incredibly common, as apparently are crafty, car-related hustles. Drivers of already dented cars will back purposefully into other cars in an attempt to extort money from their owners. Pedestrians will throw themselves on car hoods at crosswalks and then lie on the asphalt, pretending to be injured.

Cutting off or otherwise offending a fellow motorist occasionally leads to full-on brawls in the middle of the road.

And in court, dash-cam footage is the most reliable way to prove what really happened. Our friends at Wonkblog probed this issue recently, pointing to a Jalopnik post:

Dash-cam footage is the only real way to substantiate your claims in the court of law. Forget witnesses. Two-way insurance coverage is very expensive and almost completely unavailable for vehicles over ten years old -- the drivers can only get basic liability. Get into a minor or major accident and expect the other party to lie to the police or better yet, flee after rear-ending you. Since your insurance won’t pay unless the offender is found and sued, you’ll see dash-cam videos of post hit and run pursuits for plate numbers.

Dash-cam footage also aims to guard against bribery, brutality and intimidation by traffic police, which 32 percent of Russians called the most corrupt institution in the county.

Capturing the terrifying spectacle of a meteor is just a side effect of a typical Russian's traffic-related due diligence.

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Brian Vastag | February 15, 2013