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Recommend a dash cam?


Joe Frickin' Friday

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Joe Frickin' Friday

I've gotten by without a dash cam so far, but I think I'm finally ready for one, and would welcome a recommendation/review of your favorite model.

 

My sudden inspiration is a close call I had the other day that, had it gone slightly differently, might have ended up as he-said/she-said.

 

Here's a diagram of intersection between Plymouth Road (horizontal) and Barton Road (vertical):

 

dumbass-L.jpg

 

I was approaching from the right (“Me”), planning to turn right onto Barton; there were no cars in front of me. All the orange cars had a red light and were stopped; the only green traffic lights were my right-turn arrow, and a green light for traffic from Barton (“B”) to turn either way onto Plymouth.

 

Pedestrian “A” wanted to cross. She had a don’t-walk light (because I had a green-arrow light), but:

 

  • she saw all cars to her left and right were stopped, and
  • she saw that there was no traffic at “B” to turn across her path,

so she figured her path was clear. She probably didn’t see/notice my green right-turn arrow light from her position, and didn't see me approaching from way up the road. So she started to jog across.

 

Through luck or good habits (I’m not sure which), I happened to see her start crossing when I was further back than the “Me” in the diagram, so I could see around the left side of all those stopped orange cars. By the time I was at the “Me” position, the stopped cars were blocking my line of sight and I could not see her anymore. I planned to deliberately scare the crap out of her, so I approached my turn at a normal speed, fully expecting her to pop into view, and into my path, at the last second. Sure enough, she did, and I slammed on the brakes. I had stopped well short of the crosswalk though (I didn't want to take a chance of actually hitting her), and I was slow with the horn, so she had just about reached the sidewalk when I started honking; in the end I don’t think she had any idea at all what had just happened.

 

By the time I looked up at my light again, my green arrow had become yellow and then changed to red. If I had not seen her as I approached the intersection from way back, I’m sure I would have actually hit her – probably hard enough to break some bones – and I wonder whether anyone would have had the presence of mind to verify my light’s state; it probably would have been he-said/she-said, and I would have been tapping into my insurance policy because of a dumbass pedestrian. Yikes.

 

So, um, yeah, what kinda dash cam you got? Happy with it?

 

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I don't have one in my current daily driver, but I plan on replacing that car within the next year. The next one will get a dash cam installed right away. Between my 600 mile weekly commute, and an inexperienced teenage driver in the household, I'm sure it will pay for itself at some point.

 

One of my coworkers has been running one of these Lukas 7200 for a year or so and is very pleased with it. Simple, pretty cheap, and even has a motion sensor for recording things when the vehicle is parked and empty.

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I was going to suggest a Hero GoPro but the camera Keith mentions beats it hands down in all regards at a cheap price. I'm surprised you haven't had the situation you describe crop up innumerable times. Pedestrians and bicyclists in Ann Arbor seem to think they own the roads and no rules apply to them. When I worked there I wish I'd had a dash camera. A few years back a couple of students crossing Plymouth Rd were struck and killed by a driver when they darted into the roadway on foot. A dash cam could have helped the driver in court. Driving that town is just aggravating most days.

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Brief hijack here. It's prolly worth reiterating this scenario, especially to any inexperienced teenagers that might be in the room....

 

As a teenager, a good friend was approaching a red light in the right lane, with a semi stopped in the left lane. The light turned green, and my friend stepped on the gas. You can see where this is going. The semi remained stopped. By the time my friend got to the cross walk, an elderly man popped into view (as elderly men are prone to do) and they collided. Not fun, and easily avoidable by simply slowing down and remaining suspicious of the obstructed view. Of course, it didn't matter that he had a green light. The first rule of driving a car is don't hit the peds. Period.

 

While I wasn't there, my friend was upset about it for weeks, so the scenario stuck in my head. It does seem to be one of the less obvious hazards out there.

 

Now back to your regularly scheduled program:

 

 

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Russia seems to be the dash cam capital right now. Coincidentally the dash cams are popular due to the insurance fraud of pedestrians intentionally running in front of vehicles. Those videos are known as "vodka videos".

I too like to play the game of "scare the hell" out of others to make a point of a near collision.

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One option is to check out the Daily Roads Voyager Android app. Useful if you've got a surplus phone (like your last one you upgraded from) that you can dedicate to the dash cam purpose. Then it's free - the app is and you've already got the extra phone.

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Joe Frickin' Friday
One option is to check out the Daily Roads Voyager Android app. Useful if you've got a surplus phone (like your last one you upgraded from) that you can dedicate to the dash cam purpose.

 

You're making references to my previous smartphone?

 

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

 

I'm still on the same dumb flip-phone that I picked up in 2010.

 

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

 

 

 

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Well, you can buy a decent smart phone on eBay for $25-30 that would work fine for this. Something like a Galaxy Nexus or some of the Motorola Droid line. Turn on Airplane Mode and they're just a small tablet.

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  • 2 months later...
Joe Frickin' Friday

So I finally bought a dashboard camera for my car earlier this month: this camera, together with this 32GB memory card, for a grand total of $35. My brother had bought this rig for himself earlier this spring, and told me he was happy with it, so I went ahead and got it.

 

It’s astonishly compact:

 

dashcam_01-L.jpg

 

dashcam_02-L.jpg

 

 

Indeed, the suction cup for affixing the assembly to the windshield is the biggest component. The mount includes pan and tilt adjustments and can rotate around the suction cup base, so wherever you put it on your windshield, you should be able to adjust it so that the camera itself is oriented the way you want it.

 

One amusing point — the owner’s manual includes instructions written in Chinese, English, and Russian:

 

dashcam_03-L.jpg

 

 

The camera came with a cigarette-lighter power supply and a long cord. My brother had tucked the cord into the pillar trim of his car to run it down to his cigarette lighter. That’s definitely the hassle-free way to go, but I didn’t want a power supply plugged into my dashboard all the time, so for an additional $22 I went with a slightly different approach:

 

dashcam_04-L.jpg

 

 

In the above picture you can see a compact 12V-to-5V DC converter, an inline mini-fuseholder, and a PC fan power extension cable. With a little bit of soldering and heat-shrink tubing, I came up with this:

 

dashcam_05-L.jpg

 

 

This was something small enough to hide on the backside of my rearview mirror. After that, I just needed to connect it to ignition-switched power on my car. As it happens, my rearview mirror does have power coming to it:

 

dashcam_06-L.jpg

 

 

With the mirror out of the way, the power plug can be seen to have three wires:

 

dashcam_07-L.jpg

 

 

The middle wire is ground, the purple wire is always hot (for the Homelink buttons), and the brown wire is ignition-switched (for the mirror’s autodim function).

 

 

Up near the headliner, I cut into the sheathing and peeled it back to expose the wires:

 

dashcam_08-L.jpg

 

 

This surgery was in a spot that would be hidden by trim after everything was put back together. I had already used one end of the PC fan extension cable on the power supply (see above). So now I took the other end and trimmed it so that the wires were just long enough to snake up inside the sheath and solder to the OEM wiring:

 

dashcam_09-L.jpg

 

 

After scraping some insulation off of the OEM wires, I threaded my fan cable’s wires up into the sheath and soldered them into place:

 

dashcam_10-L.jpg

 

 

Presto: now I had a connector with switched 12V on it for the power supply to plug into. :Cool: I taped up my solder joints, rolled the sheath back into place, and taped the whole thing up nice and snug.

 

I stuck the power supply to the backside of the mirror using Dual-Lock:

 

dashcam_13-L.jpg

 

 

On the right side (at what is actually the driver’s end of the mirror when it’s installed) you can see the fan extension cable for connecting to 12V car power, and the USB cable for delivering 5V power to the camera. I had planned to position the camera in front of the driver’s end of the mirror, to most closely match my perspective. However, since the mirror tilts that way when in use, there’s not a lot of space on that side, and so I would have needed to mount the camera low enough to protrude into my field of view. Not cool. In the end, I decided to mount the camera behind the right end of the mirror, on the passenger side of the car:

 

dashcam_15-L.jpg

 

 

That let me mount it higher up on the windshield. In that position, I can see the suction cup above the mirror, but that’s it:

 

dashcam_14-L.jpg

 

 

The passenger has a slightly better view of the camera:

 

dashcam_17-L.jpg

 

 

But that’s OK, he’s not driving. :grin:

 

The camera works well. It automatically begins recording when you start the car, and stops when you shut the engine off; you never need to touch it unless you want to change settings or review the video footage. It automatically divides incoming video into 3-minute files (or longer if you want). At 1080i the 32GB card has enough room for three hours of video (1080p is an option, and I assume takes up twice as much memory), and the camera automatically overwrites the oldest files when the card is full, so you’ve always got the most recent 3 hours of footage. There’s an onboard battery that charges through the power cord, so if the need arises you can disconnect from the car and take it outside to document crash scene footage. By default it records cabin audio, but you can turn this off in the menu if you don’t want people to know you listen to showtunes. :grin:

it’s not perfect Go-Pro quality, but for $35 I have absolutely no complaints; it’s adequate for showing that your light was green when the texting teen blew through his red light and caused the crash. There’s no GPS, so it doesn’t record your speed, but I’m, uh, fine with that. :Cool:

 

All in all, no regrets; this is a low-cost, unobtrusive defense against fraudsters and inaccurate/absent eyewitnesses, and I recommend it for anyone who has basic soldering/wiring skills. Not all cars have switched 12V power as conveniently available as mine did, but if you’ve got a sunroof or other accessories overhead, chances are you can find switched power somewhere up there. In the worst case, you can wire up a hidden accessory power socket somewhere near your feet and then just tuck the included power supply down there, with the wiring running around the edge of your windshield like my brother did; this will still provide an installation that’s pretty much invisible from inside the car.

 

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