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The dash-cam: a vital witness to meteors ... and road rage

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Why do so many Russians have dashcams?

Russian drivers love cameras on dashboards. Great for catching meteorites, but also for a multitude of other road disasters.

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The meteor that exploded over Russia and injured nearly 1000 people on Friday morning was astonishingly well-documented by amateur videographers, and many of the videos seem to have been captured from the dashboards of cars.

All of the available footage raises the question, why do so many Russians have dashboard video 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 behaviour of our drivers,'' as well as poor road conditions.

The meteor heads towards the ground.

The meteor heads towards the ground. Photo: Screen grab

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 crossings 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.

There are dozens of videos online of serious road incidents in Russia shot with dashboard cameras.

There are dozens of videos online of serious road incidents in Russia shot with dashboard cameras.

According to a post on Jalopnik, a weblog covering cars and car culture, titled Why Russians Are Obsessed With Dash-Cams: ''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 10 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 per cent of Russians called the most corrupt institution in the country.

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

A road rage altercation caught on dashboard camera and uploaded to YouTube.

A road rage altercation caught on dashboard camera and uploaded to YouTube.

But while less common than in Russia, dash-cams are not unheard of in Australia.

Sydney-based designer Simon Seeber has a camera attached to his motorbike, which came in handy when he was nearly run off the road by a bus one morning on Warringah Road. The bus had been two lanes away from him but suddenly moved across into Seeber's lane, forcing him to brake suddenly.

"It was pretty reckless and I think also illegal," he said.

On the dashboard ... a car captured this image of a truck fall on its side .

On the dashboard ... a car captured this image of a truck fall on its side .

"I reported the incident to Sydney Buses as soon as I got to work since I had all the details on video. I was given a case number and told that they would look into it."

A week or so later he received a call saying they couldn't take any action because they could not identify the particular bus in question.

Sydney journalist Campbell Simpson installed a dash-cam in his Volkswagon Polo after an accident when a car swerved in front of him and stopped suddenly. He said the dash-cam would have shown the accident was not his fault, but he hasn't had to use it since.

Australian cyclists have for some time been using small cameras mounted to helmets or handlebars to film accidents or near misses with motorists.

Washington Post and Asher Moses

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