Friday 18 May 2012

More motorists say aye to electronic 'eyes' in vehicles here

Camera sales rise on product awareness as clips go online: Retailers
By Jalelah Abu Baker, The Straits Times, 17 May 2012

MORE motorists are installing cameras in their vehicles to act as their 'witnesses' in case of disputes or accidents.

Retailers said sales are being driven by the ready availability of such cameras and by more product awareness after videos were posted online.

The devices, which cost about $300 each and yield up to 20 hours of evidence, are used by motorists to record anything and everything - from reckless behaviour by other motorists to vandalism in carparks. Such evidence has helped motorists prove their innocence in squabbles and speed up the settlement of insurance claims.

Mr Gary Chia, product manager of Wow! Gadgets, said: 'More people are aware of such cameras because others are putting such videos up on Facebook and Stomp. Others see these videos and think they may also need it, and follow suit.'

Sales have increased by 30 per cent to 40 per cent compared with last year, and his company is launching a waterproof camera for motorcycles next month.

Mr Teddy Tay, director of Fort Digital, said it has had a 30 per cent rise in sales this year, compared with last year.

People from all walks of life buy these cameras as 'protection' in the event of an accident.

The latest example is the footage of last Saturday's crash between a Ferrari and a taxi, which showed how it came about. Three people died in the accident, and two are currently hospitalised.

A camera in a ComfortDelGro taxi that was travelling behind the cab involved in the accident managed to capture the Ferrari crashing into the taxi. A day later, the cabby handed the recording to the police.

Mr Winston Chai, 37, thinks the item is a must-have. He installed one in his car in 2009 after an unpleasant experience with a road user. 'I sounded the horn when a taxi cut into my lane at the last minute as I was turning into the PIE (Pan-Island Expressway). He braked in front of me suddenly on the expressway, and tailgated me all the way.'

The camera recording came in handy when another car crashed into his, resulting in a repair bill of $13,000. With the evidence, there was no delay in settling his insurance claim.

Insurance companies are seeing more video evidence being submitted with accident claims. Mr Pan Jing Long, head of general insurance at Aviva Singapore, said: 'We estimate that, currently, one in 50 car insurance claims we receive is accompanied by video evidence. This is still a relatively small number but it has actually doubled since about a year ago.'

He added that this footage can be very useful in determining fault, particularly when both parties are contesting liability. The rule of thumb is that the more evidence there is, the more accurate the reports will be, he said.

Video recordings are also among evidence collected in the course of Traffic Police investigations.

The judge will decide on the reliability of the video evidence.

Earlier this year, changes were proposed to ease the process of using 'computer output evidence' such as digital video and sound recordings for court hearings. Recordings from cameras installed by the Land Transport Authority islandwide may also be requested as evidence.

Taxi operators are eyeing car cameras to protect their drivers. SMRT Taxis is looking to install the device in all its cabs, as is TransCab, so there is some form of evidence in case of an accident.

The two operators jointly run more than a quarter of the 26,000 cabs here.

ComfortDelGro, which operates more than 15,000 taxis, started selling cameras at $375 each to its drivers recently.

Users of iPhones and Android phones can also download apps that allow continuous video recording from vehicles.

DailyRoads Voyager, a free app that has an average of 100 active users per month from Singapore, logs time and location, while speed, elevation and Global Positioning System coordinates are saved each second.

Motorists can place their phones in a cellphone holder on their dashboards.

However the evidence is captured, lawyers said video recordings often provide clear and objective proof in court, and are common in cases of road rage and traffic accidents.

Lawyer Adrian Wee said: 'Previously, the footage would be in black and white and only from CCTV (closed-circuit television). Now, people film everything because they have access to these gadgets.'

Fatal high-speed crash caught on dashboard-mounted camera
By Jalelah Abu Baker, The Straits Times, 17 May 2012

A MOVING, blurry flash of red, and then there it was - a Ferrari barrelling into a taxi at the junction of Rochor Road and Victoria Street early on Saturday, in a high-speed crash captured by a dashboard-mounted camera.

The clip was caught by a Comfort DelGro cabby, who, just seconds earlier, had been to the left of the taxi that was now a mangled wreck.

The 50-year-old taxi driver, who did not want to be named, has handed the clip over to the police for investigations into the crash, which has left three people dead - the Ferrari driver, the other taxi driver and his passenger. Two other people, including a motorcyclist, are injured.

The cabby declined to speak to The Straits Times, but his wife, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Yeo, said that her husband had come home after witnessing the accident and uploaded the video onto his computer.

The reason: The clip was proof that his fellow taxi driver had neither run the red light nor been at fault.

Mrs Yeo said her husband had been accused of having caused an accident in the past, before he installed a dashboard camera, and he had no proof then that he was in the clear.

It was only when he uploaded the video on Saturday that he saw the Ferrari, which had blazed down the road so fast that he did not see it. He had thought the crash was only between the taxi and the motorcycle.

Several real-time clips of accidents are on file-sharing site YouTube.

In response to queries on the use of such footage as proof, a police spokesman said video clips are considered in conjunction with other evidence, such as witnesses' accounts, or reconstruction of accident scenes, in determining if any offences have been committed.

She said: 'Under the law, the police have the power to compel persons to produce information in their possession for the purpose of investigation.'

They may also need to testify in court. But as to whether the video evidence meets the standards required to be admissible in criminal proceedings, the courts will decide, she added.

SMRT Taxis is working with the authorities to get in-vehicle cameras installed in its taxis to 'provide evidence to protect our drivers in the event of accidents', said director Tony Heng.

Comfort DelGro, the largest cab operator here, said it has sold more than 250 units to its drivers. Among cabbies who have these cameras is Mr Michael Tan, 55, who has a GPS device-cum-camera. On the road just six months, he believes the camera will give him the evidence he needs in case of accidents.

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