Insurance fraud, psychopathic drivers and police corruption.
When people erect cameras on their property, it usually done so for the sake of protection. Whether it is a convenience store or a home, the reasoning is always pretty similar: "I feel threatened by the possibility of somebody shoplifting my goods" or "I am afraid that a burglar might try to break into my house." People rarely setup surveillance equipment because of the off-chance that they might get lucky and record some amusing footage. In reality, cameras are usually setup because of a fear of something that may or may not occur. It is a second insurance policy that only comes into effect if some of our worst fears are realized. The same principle applies to dashboard cameras. If somebody is recording their journey to and from work, then it is safe to assume that he or she has thought of a few worst-case scenarios that they would like to protect themselves against.
If you do a quick search on Youtube for insurance fraud in Russia, you'll quickly come across a lot of compilation videos of random pedestrians throwing themselves in-front of slow-moving vehicles. They'll stand on the curb, act as if they're just waiting to cross and then suddenly, they'll make and exerted effort to jump out in front of you. Some of these fraudsters can even be seen on the sidewalk, chatting away as if everything is normal. Then, as soon as their target is close enough, they'll make a bee-line for the car (or in the case of the video shown below, even a bus):
The above compilation is undoubtedly a shocking sight for many of us in the western world to see. Why are these people putting themselves in such danger? Why are they willing to fling themselves into the path of moving vehicles? The answer is depressingly obvious and you've probably already guessed it: Money. The cause and solution to all of life's problems. Get yourself hurt by a moving vehicle and it is usually a simple case of your word versus theirs. Since Russian courts aren't exactly a huge fan of verbal evidence, they'll most likely side with the person who has a broken arm or a busted kneecap. That's if it even reaches the court and the car insurance company doesn't end up shelling out a lump sum, leaving the innocent motorist with a future of higher premium rates to pay.
Unfortunately, Kamikaze pedestrians aren't the only danger that Russian drivers have to protect themselves against. There have also been a lot of reports of vehicles intentionally reversing into the cars behind them while they are stopped in traffic. This is so that they can accuse the driver behind them of driving into the back of their car. If you know somebody that has been involved in a collision where one vehicle drove into the back of the other, then you'll also know that it is always an open-and-shut case of the motorist behind being at fault. It doesn't matter if the driver in front suddenly slammed on his or her breaks. The courts will always side against the person who "didn't leave enough room" between themselves and the car in front. This seems to be a rule-of-thumb that all countries abide by. The problem is: When a car intentionally reverses into the front of your car, who is the court going to side with if there is no additional evidence to support your claim that you did nothing wrong? If it comes down to your word versus theirs, who will the authorities believe? Will they believe that you were just innocently parked in traffic when the crazy guy in front of you suddenly decided to slam his car back into your front bumper? Or will they believe that a momentary loss of attention on your part led to you colliding with the vehicle in front of you?
The look on their faces when he points to the dash cam makes for great viewing.
Russian motorists also have to deal with a significant level of violence on their roads. Traffic gets heavy, tempers flare and before you know it, some pumped up steroid-popping Russian dude is sprinting towards your car with a metal object in his hand. In many of the videos that you will see on Youtube, a lot of the motorists seem to have baseball bats and axes in their vehicles, just in case things "happen to kick off".
According to Russian blogger Marina Galperina:
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.
Lets not overlook the most obvious reason for the large number of dashboard cameras in Russia: Accident Rates. It is no secret that the fatality rates on Russia's roads are higher than what you would expect for a developed country. In 2011, 200,000 traffic accidents killed 28,000 people. According to Wikipedia, Russia has 18.5 road fatalities per 100'000 motorists. This is much higher than the USA's rate of 12.3 and the United Kingdom's rate of 3.59. In fact, it is also higher than the fatality rates in developing countries such as Laos, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia.
Dmitry Medvedev, the current Prime Minister of Russia, admits that the number of road accidents on Russian roads is a glaring issue that needs to be addressed. In one interview, he blamed these statistics on bad weather conditions and the "undisciplined, criminally careless behavior of our drivers".
He is correct about the terrible weather conditions. As shown by the horrific crash video below, they are nothing to be scoffed at:
According to the 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index, Russia is perceived to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. One could simply argue that this is based on people's perception of corruption and not any real figures. However, one could also argue that people's perception of the corruption in the public sector in Russia is also a contributing factor to the number of dashboard cameras that are owned in Russia (1'000'000, according to latest figures).
According to an Al Jazeera report on the subject, motorists in the ex-Soviet state "are using technology to crack down on police corruption." According to Russian native Marina Galperina, who wrote a great article about the Dash Cam situation:
The conditions of Russian roads are perilous, with insane gridlock in cities and gigantic ditches, endless swamps and severe wintry emptiness on the backroads and highways. Then there are large, lawless areas you don’t just ride into, the police with a penchant for extortion and deeply frustrated drivers who want to smash your face.