Around 10,000 cases of dangerous driving captured on dashcams have been uploaded to a police database designed to prosecute careless motorists in the last 20 months.
Of these, roughly half have resulted in police action, according to the company that created the online reporting system.
However, some experts have claimed that too much footage is being uploaded to the database and police forces simply don’t have the resources to examine all the videos.
Who’s informing on you? Police have used a dashcam firm’s vigilante website to take action against some 5,000 road users caught driving dangerously in the last 2 years, a report claims
In a feature on tonight’s episode of BBC’s Inside Out at 19:30 on BBC One, Nextbase reveals there has been around 5,000 cases of individuals facing police action because their poor driving was captured on other motorists’ dashcams and reported to the authorities.
The dashcam manufacturer set up the National Dash Cam Safety Portal in July 2018 to allow road users to upload film of incidents for the police to review and use as evidence.
It estimates that more than three million road users use a dash or helmet cam currently, which were originally designed to help motorists in insurance claim disputes.
However, the popularity of the devices has in recent years seen a surge in footage of shocking behaviour on the road appearing on YouTube and other social media platforms.
Figures given to the BBC suggest that this footage is helping to convict thousands of cases of dangerous driving each year.
It follows an exclusive report by This is Money in July 2019, when we revealed that more than 1,200 drivers had been prosecuted using footage uploaded to the database in the first year.
The database was said then to have saved police forces across Britain 68,474 hours of man hours processing evidence of dangerous driving in the previous 12 months, which is the the equivalent of 2,685 days – or roughly seven officer-years.
Dashcam maker Nextbase set up the National Dash Cam Safety Portal in July 2018 to allow road users to upload film of incidents for the police to review and use as evidence
Nextbase told BBC Inside Out that footage of 10,000 incidents have been uploaded to police forces around the country in the first 20 months, and claim that half have resulted in some form of ‘police action’.
Some 28 out of 39 police forces in England are now signed up to the database and are using it to prosecute drivers.
Bryn Booker, Nextbase portal operator said: ‘There have been around 10,000 uploads sent through the National Dash Cam Safety Portal.
‘It goes directly to the police through a secure and encrypted system that is approved by the police. So we do not touch this data whatsoever.’
Motoring journalist Quentin Willson is a supporter of dashcam technology and told the BBC show: ‘We need a kind of army of eyes in the 37million cars on the roads in the UK.. and having dash cams there as a deterrent, where people know “I could be on camera, I need to behave myself”… it will save potentially hundreds of lives.’
Some 3 million road users are believed to be using cameras either fixed to their windscreens or dashboards in cars or on motorcycle and bicycle helmets
Broadcaster and keen cyclist Jeremy Vine – who himself wears a helmet cam when cycling and has famously published footage on social media of road rage and dangerous drivers – agreed with Willson.
‘I honestly believe that cameras on bicycles are going to transform the safety of our roads both for cyclists and pedestrians and even for other car drivers.
‘In the end I want to get home in one piece. And at the moment, when I say goodbye to my wife, I’m dressed like a navy seal on his way to kill Bin Laden. It’s ridiculous.’
In the end I want to get home in one piece. And at the moment, when I say goodbye to my wife, I’m dressed like a navy seal on his way to kill Bin Laden.
Jeremy Vine – broadcaster and cyclist
But not everyone is a fan of dashcams or the use of a database to inform on other motorists.
Inside Out reports that some fear that police forces are being inundated with footage, and do not have the resources to examine every clip submitted.
Celebrity lawyer Nick Freeman, dubbed Mr Loophole for his success in defending clients told the BBC: ‘The danger is the whole system will be saturated and the police will just give up because they won’t be able to afford the resources to sift through and work out – actually this is really bad and we need to pursue it and that’s just not worthy of looking at. ‘
Experts have warned that too much footage is being uploaded to the online portal and police don’t have the resources to check all the evidence available
As well as the concerns for the database consuming too much police time, the AA has also warned that encouraging ‘dashcam vigilantes’ should not be seen as a substitute for having traffic police on patrol.
Edmund King, AA president, told This is Money: ‘Whist we support the use of dash cams for safety and insurance reasons, it is a sad state of affairs that we need to rely on dashcam coverage to supplement roads policing.
‘However, the reality is that we have seen a 20 per cent cut in traffic police in the last decade. If we had more cops in cars we wouldn’t need to use dashcam vigilantes.’
And a spokeswoman for privacy campaigners Big Brother Watch added: ‘The idea that motorists should constantly film each other may be well-intentioned but it risks breeding a culture of mistrust and suspicion.
‘The UK has more surveillance cameras than any other country in Europe. The ANPR network that surveils innocent drivers already captures 40million photos a day.
‘The last thing we need is ordinary people being encouraged to spy on each other too.’
The portal, which has been in operation for the last 20 months, is said to cut the amount of work for police forces to gather evidence against dangerous drivers. Some 28 out of 39 police forces in England are now signed up to the database
How the database works
The database is said to have dramatically cut the amount of work police need to put in to review dashcam footage and decide whether someone has been driving dangerously.
It’s estimated the previous method of receiving, viewing and processing footage of dangerous driving provided by other motorists would take around 14 hours per video.
This is because clips could only be used in a similar way to eye-witness accounts, which required interviews and masses of paperwork during processing – which unsurprisingly proved time consuming.
The new portal instead utilises a recent loophole found by North Wales Police in 2016 that allows forces to use dashcam and helmet cam footage in the same way speed camera clips are used as the sole evidence needed to punish limit-breaking motorists.
The new system makes it simple and fast for drivers to upload dashcam footage to a police-accessed network.
Nextbase told BBC Inside Out that footage of 10,000 incidents have been sent to police forces around the country in the first 20 months, with half of it being used to take action against drivers
Each video requires a short description of the event captured and a supporting online questionnaire, which takes around 15 minutes to complete in total.
This is then used as the eyewitness statement in cases.
Officers review each video and – as with speeding fines – send a driving penalty notice to the guilty party who can choose to accept it or dispute it in court.
All public-generated video footage can be used to target a multitude of offences including dangerous driving, driving without due care and attention, contravening solid white lines, mobile phone use, improper control of vehicle and contravening red traffic lights.
SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.