What You Need to Know about Dash Cams in Virginia

Author: R. Christopher Jones, Richmond, VA Personal Injury Attorney

Dashboard cameras, also known as ‘dash cams,’ are small devices that are mounted on cars and record what is happening in and around the vehicle. Though they are commonly mounted on a car’s dashboard, they can also be attached to the windshield or elsewhere.[1] The cameras can be programmed to begin recording as soon as the driver turns on the car, and they record everything onto a memory device that can be reviewed after each drive.[2]

Why use a dash cam?

Dash cams are useful due to what they capture. Because dash cams record everything from the driver’s perspective, they can be used to show a series of events in the order that they occurred. This can be useful in accident disputes, although not all insurance companies will review dash cam footage. Additionally, dash cams can be used to record road trip experiences, keep track of a borrowed vehicle, or even document something unexpected. For example, dashboard cameras in Russia captured some of the best-known footage of a falling meteor.[3]

The cameras may also help in interactions with the police. Some owners have said that they were successfully able to dispute a traffic allegation simply by having the presence of the camera made known to a police officer. Police cars often come equipped with their own dash cams, however, so a driver may not have the only record of the incident.[4]

Are dash cams legal in Virginia?

There are currently no federal regulations prohibiting dashboard cameras, but some state laws affect their use. In Virginia, dash cams are legal as long as they are mounted in a way that does not obstruct the driver’s view of the highway through the windshield, front side windows, or rear window. Though some states prohibit recording others without their knowledge, Virginia law allows recording in areas to which the public has access or where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.[5] As dash cams are still relatively new technology, more regulations may be placed on them in the future.

What are the issues associated with using a dash cam?

The dash cam records everything, meaning it will catch a mistake made by the driver as well as others on the road. Just as it could help the driver in cases where another driver was at fault, it will hurt that driver in cases where it was his or her fault. If the driver witnesses anything of interest, owning a camera could also result in a police search and seizure of the camera’s footage. Additionally, until insurance companies change their policies, owning the camera does not guarantee that a driver will get insurance discounts or incentives.[6]

Dashboard cameras are an up-and-coming technology that drivers can take advantage of to protect themselves on the road. They come with a variety of options; some of the less expensive models (around $60) only record video, but higher-quality models can record sound and have night-vision and GPS (around $150).[7] Whether a driver needs a dash cam is a decision that the driver must make for himself, but the cameras can be an effective way to protect drivers from certain dangers of the road.

About The Author: Chris Jones is an attorney with Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. He works out of the Richmond, VA office. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Chris worked as a high school teacher. His experience as an educator enables him to thoroughly explain complex legal issues to juries as well as his clients.


[1] http://cartech.about.com/od/Security/fl/What-is-a-Dashcam.htm.

[2] http://lifehacker.com/will-a-dash-cam-actually-help-you-after-a-car-accident-1732054157.

[3] http://cameras.reviewed.com/features/6-reasons-you-should-own-a-dashcam-2; http://lifehacker.com/will-a-dash-cam-actually-help-you-after-a-car-accident-1732054157.

[4] http://www.mercurynews.com/mr-roadshow/ci_29843711/roadshow-fighting-traffic-tickets-dash-cam-does-it?source=infinite-up.

[5] http://lifehacker.com/will-a-dash-cam-actually-help-you-after-a-car-accident-1732054157; Va. Code §46.2-1054.

[6] http://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/pros-cons-personal-dash-cam/2015/10/21/id/697390/; http://www.wfmynews2.com/news/dash-cams-can-work-for-and-against-you/167573572.

[7] http://lifehacker.com/will-a-dash-cam-actually-help-you-after-a-car-accident-1732054157.

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