There were about a dozen different motorists around that Russian city of Chelyabinsk who were able to capture video of the massive meteor that flew through the sky last Friday. How was it possible that so many people videotaped the event? Because almost everyone in Russia has a dash-mounted video camera in their car. (Videos)
The sheer size of the country, combined with lax — and often corrupt — law enforcement, and a legal system that rarely favors first-hand accounts of traffic collisions has made dash cams all but a requirement for motorists.
“You can get into your car without your pants on, but never get into a car without a dash cam,” Aleksei Dozorov, a motorists’ rights activist in Russia told Radio Free Europe last year.
Do a search for “Russia dash cam crash” in YouTube — or even better, Yandex.ru, the county’s equivalent of Google — and you’ll find thousands of videos showing massive crashes, close calls and attempts at insurance fraud by both other drivers and pedestrians. And Russian drivers are accident prone. With 35,972 road deaths in 2007 (the latest stats available from the World Health Organization), Russia averages 25.2 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people. The U.S., by comparison, had 13.9 road deaths per 100,000 people in the same year, despite having six times more cars.
A combination of inexpensive cameras, flash memory and regulations passed by the Interior Ministry in 2009that removed any legal hurdles for in-dash cameras has made it easy and cheap for drivers to install the equipment.
And it’s turned into an online phenomenon.
YouTube content policing means some of the most disturbing videos get pulled from U.S. video sites almost immediately, but as Marina Galperina reported at Animal New York last year, sites like the Ru CHP LiveJournal community are filled with disturbing videos of profanity-laden fist-fights, massive crashes and gruesome deaths, all captured on camera and shared for the world to see.
But then there are times, when dash cams catch a once-in-a-lifetime meteor falling from the sky, from every possible angle — something that couldn’t have happened just a few years ago.