A dashcam can be a vital tool for ride-sharing service drivers looking to protect themselves after accidents or incidents involving their passengers. After all, driving in the ride-sharing industry can be a dangerous side hustle.
The New York Post reported in 2016 that crashes involving for-hire vehicles in the Big Apple tripled from 534 accidents in 2014 to 1,672 accidents in 2016. Having a dashcam to document how crashes occur can make a big difference in court. But the need for a dashcam extends also to the inside of the car. There have been countless horror stories, ranging from a Taco Bell executive beating up his Uber driver in 2015 to a Lyft driver getting attacked at a gas station in Los Angeles earlier this year.
While these are extreme examples, dealing with strangers on each ride makes for an unpredictable and sometimes dangerous workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that the homicide rate is three times higher for taxi drivers than normal workers. While ride-sharing service drivers may be a bit safer, because there aren't any cash transitions, they are still exposed to the same risks as taxi drivers.
[RELATED: 6 Steps to Becoming an Uber or Lyft Driver]
What features does your dashcam need?
Before you shell out hundreds of dollars on a system packed with features you may not use, there are a few marquee features to consider, like two-way recording, a night-vision option and different video storage capabilities.
"The most important thing to look for is a two-way dashcam … that records what's going on in front of your vehicle in addition to the interior," said Harry Campbell, Uber driver and founder of a blog for ride-sharing service drivers called The Ride Share Guy.
Campbell said that it's important to record both the exterior and interior of your vehicle for "accidents and liability, but also for preventing any types of incidents or bad behavior with your passengers."
The two-way record feature is essential if you're a ride-sharing service driver. By documenting what happens in accidents or other incidents, you can protect yourself and your vehicle if disputes reach court. Most dashcam kits don't include a third camera to record the front, back and interior of your vehicle. Based on your own needs, it's important to decide whether you use the second camera to record the interior of your vehicle or the traffic following your car.
Another feature you should look for is a built-in microphone or an additional microphone for recording audio.
It's very important to review your state's recording laws before installing a camera that films the interior of your vehicle. While filming the roadway is usually not a problem, some states require consent before recording. Campbell said that one possible way to solve this problem is with a "You're on camera" sticker posted in a visible area in your vehicle.Credit: Photo credit: Michael Leslie/Shutterstock
Driving after dark is a major aspect of being a ride-sharing services driver. It's important to have a dashcam that captures sharp, accurate video – even in the dark. "You'll also want good night vision, as most potential 'incidents' with passengers are going to happen at night when people are drinking," he said.
Read reviews and even test out (if possible) the night mode on the camera before you buy it. Some cameras come with night vision, infrared sensors or feature a night mode for recording on dimly lit streets.
For video storage, it's all about what works best for you. There are a lot of different features – some that are expensive – but as long as your dashcam records footage that you can access in a way that works for you, that's all that matters.
To store video, most dashcams will either loop footage over existing footage or back up video to the cloud. Depending on how much money you want to spend and what features you need, both can serve you well in terms of storage.
These features include flagging and saving a recording after the vehicle has been hit, automatically turning on when a vehicle is hit and only recording after a vehicle has been hit. But if you're using an always-on, loop storage system, when a major incident happens, you're likely to access, watch, and save the footage before it would be overwritten anyway. So the extra features, while they go an extra step in ensuring you have the exact footage that you need, may not be completely necessary.
The cloud storage options, while keeping large video files for access, can go a step further in allowing you to see your vehicle when you're not near it. For a ride-sharing service driver, this function could be useful if you need to leave your vehicle.
BlackVue, for example, has models that save video to the cloud and allow you to access the cameras using an app when you are away from the vehicle. While this service may not be completely necessary, it could be viewed as a nice perk of purchasing a dashcam that has cloud storage.
The price of your dashcam system largely depends on what features you are looking to include. For a solid, two-way recording system with night vision and basic video storage, you'll likely pay $150 to $300. For more advanced cameras with features like cloud-based storage referred to earlier in this article, those will cost between $300 and $400-plus.
A dashcam is a great tool for on-demand drivers. There are a host of features you can get, based on your personal needs, but, at minimum, you should have a camera that records at night with built-in audio and an interior-record option. Make sure you check with your state's recording laws before installing an interior camera with or without a "You're on camera" sign or sticker. Having video evidence of your time on the road will give you peace of mind while working.