This Ride Is Being Recorded

On January 1, a new law will go into effect allowing California's motorists to place five- to seven-inch high-definition "video event recorders" on the windshield of their cars.

State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, representative for areas of San Diego, Poway, and Escondido, authored the bill. Fletcher's aim for Assembly Bill 1942, according to the legislation that was passed in June of this year, was to "reduce motor vehicle deaths" and promote "safe driving habits and reduced accidents."

"Studies of both teen and commercial drivers found that the use of video event recorders, paired with behavioral coaching, improved driver safety and reduced accidents," reads the bill.

The recorder will capture footage on a continuous digital loop. It will automatically save any footage that involves deployment of the airbags, or any sudden stops or erratic maneuvers and will store G-Force values and global-positioning coordinates.

The driver can also choose to manually record aggressive driving behavior and record audio.

Fletcher's bill, however, didn't go without some resistance. Labor unions and civil rights unions opposed the bill. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters felt that operators of commercial vehicles should be given unedited copies of the recordings and have the right to disable the recorder up to 30 seconds before and after an event. The teamsters later withdrew their opposition after Fletcher amended the bill.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that the requirement for drivers to post a notice inside the car informing their passengers of the recording was not sufficient.

The civil rights union objected to recording audio and ensuring that all passengers gave consent to have their conversations recorded.

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This will be an interesting one to watch play out. On one hand I can think of times (like when I got slammed by a driver doing over 20 in a mall parking lot and was named at fault) that it would help innocent accident victims plead their cases. Or capturing inappropriate audio during a traffic stop. On the other, the amount of stuff that could be secretly captured seems to open a privacy-rights Pandora's box...

If the camera is in OPEN view and there is no dispute about that then I think it is not only OK-but needed today. It can record and memorialize any bad or illegal actions of others. Especially police.

I can see a lot of problems with this one.

The insurance company might request a copy of the camera's tape to see if you were driving perfectly straight, or perhaps veering slightly toward or away from the white dotted lines. The tape could also allow enforcement officials to determine your speed at the time using the camera record speed (megabytes per second?) and the timing of the lines going by. This is assuming you don't have a newer car with black box built in.

Yes, the camera may help record the police involved in some type of misconduct, but this is San Diego, police are never prosecuted for anything less than murder, so what good would that do?

No, I only see this as another way to add one more way for Big Brother to see if they can determine whether or not you were partially to blame. With all the legalese involved in things like this, I can easily see where this could really turn around and bite you.

My suggestion is save the video camera for the fun times and use your common sense, driving skills, and knowledge of the law to keep you safe on the road. We are all only human, but you know the law doesn't see it that way.

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