‘Smile, you’re on dash cam’

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - News - KYLE GREENHAM NEW­FOUND­LAND AND LABRADOR [email protected]­cen­tralvoice.ca

In the age of smart­phones and so­cial me­dia, groups like the Face­book page Dash Cam NL pro­vide a pub­lic fo­rum to catch bad driv­ers in the act.

St. John’s res­i­dent Dar­ren Tucker has posted over eight videos to the page, cap­tur­ing ve­hi­cles dan­ger­ously speed­ing through stop signs and turns that are near misses. He says Dash Cam NL, which cur­rently has over 7,600 fol­low­ers, is a use­ful tool for dis­cour­ag­ing poor driv­ing de­ci­sions.

“I know a cou­ple peo­ple who have made mis­takes and will say ‘I’m go­ing to end up on Dash Cams NL now,’” said Tucker. “It can be a de­ter­rent for peo­ple to start driv­ing sensible.”

Po­lice have a dif­fer­ing view. Par­tic­u­larly with footage where a li­cense plate or a vis­ual of the driver is avail­able, RCMP Staff-Sgt. Dave Ossinger - who is in charge of the traf­fic ser­vices di­vi­sion in New­found­land - would pre­fer to see videos sub­mit­ted di­rectly to the RCMP rather than posted on so­cial me­dia.

“When a case is be­fore the courts and it in­volves dash cam footage, it is cer­tainly im­por­tant to re­mind peo­ple to not share court ev­i­dence in a pub­lic fo­rum,” he said. “De­tails in po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion are clas­si­fied as pro­tected in­for­ma­tion not meant to be shared with the pub­lic.

“I would hope that some­one who asks us to open an in­ves­ti­ga­tion would then not sub­se­quently put that ev­i­dence in the pub­lic sphere.”

The worst footage Tucker ever recorded came when he wit­nessed a ve­hi­cle speed­ing through a stop sign and nearly hit­ting a pedes­trian about to cross. But be­cause it oc­curred at night and he did not get a vis­ual of the driver or the ve­hi­cle’s li­cense plate, he de­cided against send­ing it to po­lice.

A lesson? Justin Na­gle bought a dash cam shortly af­ter pur­chas­ing a ve­hi­cle over a year ago. Nearly ev­ery day, he says he en­coun­ters some act of bad driv­ing that’s worth pre­serv­ing.

Like Tucker, he sees value in the pub­lic pres­sure and sham­ing a group like Dash Cam NL can put on driv­ers. Na­gle even had the driver from a video he posted leave a com­ment on the Face­book page.

The video in­volved a ve­hi­cle turn­ing out of a gas sta­tion that nearly re­sulted in a col­li­sion with Na­gle.

“The driver even­tu­ally found the page and agreed that he shouldn’t have taken the turn,” Na­gle said. “I think [Dash Cam NL] does im­prove peo­ple’s driv­ing. Peo­ple can see the same in­ter­sec­tions they take and the reck­less things peo­ple can do and think that num­ber one, that is dan­ger­ous, and num­ber two, I don’t want to end up on this Face­book page.”

Since plac­ing the cam­era sit­u­ated on his dash­board, Na­gle says it is a steady re­minder to watch his own driv­ing habits as well.

“There’s things as a driver you of­ten don’t think about in the mo­ment, but in ret­ro­spect, you watch the footage and think ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have taken that turn, or maybe I should have slowed down there’,” he said.

Start­ing point

Ac­cord­ing to Ossinger, th­ese videos can serve as a great start­ing point for a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion. With cam­eras so read­ily avail­able through ei­ther dash cams or peo­ple’s smart­phones, it is ev­i­dence the RCMP and RNC re­ceive more of­ten.

But Ossinger says the ex­tent to which th­ese videos re­sult in charges or ar­rests de­pends on sev­eral fac­tors, such as what is re­vealed in the video, how re­cent the video was taken, and if the per­son who cap­tured the footage is will­ing to co­op­er­ate as a wit­ness.

“It’s im­por­tant for peo­ple to re­al­ize that a video is only one brick in a wall of ev­i­dence we’re try­ing to build,” he said. “Video is of­ten not go­ing to be able to cap­ture and iden­tify a driver, so fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion is al­ways go­ing to be needed. I per­son­ally don’t use th­ese groups [like Dash Cam NL] as an in­ves­tiga­tive tool, be­cause it’s of­ten hard to link those videos with some­one who made an in­frac­tion.”

And, he adds, some­times this type of pub­lic fo­rum can es­ca­late prob­lems.

“My im­pres­sion of so­cial me­dia is that some­times th­ese pub­lic fo­rums can fos­ter healthy dis­cus­sions, but sadly, more of­ten than not, they can also fos­ter a lot of con­flict,” Ossinger said. “The crit­i­cal dis­cus­sions that get at­tached to videos that are posted - I worry peo­ple are go­ing to be es­ca­lat­ing con­flict rather than re­solv­ing any­thing in that for­mat.”

Most of the com­ments Tucker has seen on Dash Cam NL re­mains civil – ex­cept for the oc­ca­sional curse words.

“You get some peo­ple that will put some foul lan­guage about the per­son who posted the video or driver,” he said. “I haven't seen any threats or any­thing like that."

The ad­min­is­tra­tors of Dash Cam NL were con­tacted for com­ment but did not re­spond by dead­line.


The pop­u­lar Face­book page Dash Cam NL posts footage of in­ci­dents of bad and of­ten dan­ger­ous driv­ing habits recorded by driv­ers in the prov­ince.

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