Dash cam evidence a godsend

By: Sarah Marinovic*


The take-up of dash cams in trucks is increasing, making it easier to identify offending motorists

Dash cam evidence a godsend
Dash cams make it easier for police to prosecute motorists for unsafe driving.

 

Most truck drivers have war stories about narrowly avoiding accidents with cars that don’t drive safely around them. I’m sure many of you have added a few close calls over the past few months, with the extra holiday makers and caravans on the road.

Many truck drivers are frustrated. While the heavy vehicle industry seems to cop a lot of blame when it comes to road safety, it can feel like not a lot is done about car drivers who cause dangerous situations around trucks.

But there are steps you can take as a truck driver when a car cuts you off or otherwise causes havoc around you.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that police can’t take action unless they witness the incident. This isn’t true. There is no requirement that a police officer sees the offence firsthand. The evidence of another driver is just as valid. Police can investigate and prosecute offences based entirely on statements from other members of the public.

Dash cam proof

With more and more trucks being fitted with dash cam the ability for police to take action against unsafe drivers is increasing. With footage of the incident, it’s far easier for police to identify the offending vehicle and far harder for the driver to dispute what happened.

So what can you do if you have evidence of another road user committing an offence?

The first step is to take your dash cam footage to the closest police station and let them know what happened. You can also ask for your case to be referred to the local highway patrol.

Having received your report, the police have can deal with it in a few different ways.

The first thing they need to do is identify who was driving the car at the time of the incident. The law allows police to require the registered owner of the vehicle to disclose who was driving it at the time of a traffic offence. If the owner refuses to do so, they can be fined.

The police will often ask you whether you want to pursue charges against the other driver. It is important that you know exactly what this involves before committing to the process.

If the police charge the other driver with an offence, you might need to attend court to give evidence to help prove the case against them. This can involve a day off work, and you may not be given a choice whether to attend or not, because the prosecution can issue a subpoena that legally requires you to be there. It is important that you bear this in mind when deciding whether you want to push for the person to be prosecuted.

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Driver education

If attending court doesn’t appeal to you, then you might like to ask the police to simply caution the other driver. Often, what we really want is for them to realise they’ve done the wrong thing and be more careful in the future. Sometimes, just having a police officer arrive on their doorstep, show a video of their bad driving, and give them a stern lecture can be enough of a wake-up call.

Be aware though that the final call on whether to charge the driver or caution them is made by police, so while they will generally be influenced by your wishes, they can decide that a caution will do where you would prefer a charge, or that an offence is too serious for a caution alone.

Hopefully, if enough truck drivers report incidents of unsafe driving the public will receive the message that they need to be safer around large vehicles.

In the meantime, education is one of the best tools we have. Not all car drivers’ mistakes are malicious. Many just don’t understand the special challenges that truck drivers face. To combat this, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has created a series of short videos with tips for driving safely around trucks. You can access them at www.nhvr.gov.au/we-need-space and share them on social media.

Hopefully, we can all share the road safely.

*Sarah Marinovic is a principal solicitor at Ainsley Law – a firm dedicated to traffic and heavy vehicle law. She has focussed on this expertise for over a decade, having started her career prosecuting for the RMS, and then using that experience as a defence lawyer helping professional drivers and truck owners.

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