Eye Spy: Russian Dashboard Cameras Capture Accidents Galore

The Internet is fraught with dash cam disaster footage, but that's not because Russian drivers are the worst.

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Russia may have a declining population, but it’s not facing a shortage of dash cams — small cameras mounted to drivers’ dashboards as a security measure against a range of roadside risks.

The Internet is fraught with dash cam disaster footage from all over Russia, but that’s not because Russian drivers are the worst (at least, not necessarily). So why the fondness for constant surveillance? As Marina Galperina, a Russian expatriate who works for the blog Animal New York, explained, Russia has a serious case of road rage. Upset another driver with one wrong swerve, and you could find yourself on the receiving end of a Soviet smack down. Galperina writes:

“Psychopaths are abundant on Russian roads. You best not cut anyone off or undertake some other type of maneuver that might inconvenience the 200-pound, six-foot-five brawling children you see on YouTube hopping out of their SUVs with their dukes up. They will go ballistic in a snap, drive in front of you, brake suddenly, block you off, jump out and run towards your vehicle. Next thing you start getting punches in your face because your didn’t roll up your windows, or getting pulled out of the car and beaten because you didn’t lock the doors.”

Russian courts won’t, apparently, take physical bruises as evidence of bodily harm, but if you have video footage, that’s another story — the threat of capturing bad behavior on film is enough to keep automobile menaces away. Sometimes the threat isn’t from other drivers, though. Russia ranks 133rd on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index — which is not good — and dash cam footage helps prevent against bribery, police brutality and intimidation by traffic police, which 32 percent of Russians called the most corrupt institution in the county. (Oddly enough, Russians also identify kindergartens as another bastion of corruption.)

Insurance scams can be a danger, too. Organized crime gangs have been known to stage accidents and produce small mobs of “witnesses” to pressure bribes from unlucky drivers. Though dash cams have led to somewhat of a decline in the practice, compilation clips are, no surprise, easy to come by. For those who get a kick out of watching horrific car accidents, there is an abundance of videos documenting every collision and close call from Kamchatka to Kazan. There’s even a Russian-language blog devoted to collecting them. But videos like the 2012 round-up of the best dash cam videos may not be for the faint of heart. Russian car accident clips can be gruesome, and road rage footage can quickly get very ugly — and violent.

If car carnage isn’t your thing, there are other, more agreeable dash cam videos more. If you need a gentle ride through town, some of the very first dash cam footage, from 1908 and 1926, is now on the Internet. And if you’re in the mood for some ear and eye candy, pop girl group Serebro turned dash cams back on themselves for some reckless driving, taking their hands off the wheel for the most noble of causes: choreography. At least they’re wearing seat belts.