The one car accessory you shouldn’t go without this winter

Dashcams can be your saviour from a dicey (and icy) crash aftermath this winter.

While cars should be equipped with winter tires, brushes, windshield washer fluid and an emergency kit, among others, to help you endure the cold months on the road, there is one item you should have that you may have overlooked.

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Dashcams can prove useful in de-escalating the stress involved in the aftermath of a car accident, especially during the winter.

As the name suggests, a dashcam is a device you can install in your vehicle to record live visuals and real-time data of what is occurring in front of the camera while driving. It can vary in size, cost and operational capabilities.

Dashcams/Getty Images-1128045084

(Getty Images-1128045084)

Rob de Pruis, Insurance Bureau of Canada's (IBC) national director of consumer and industry relations, said the video recording is helpful to drivers because it can determine fault in a collision by providing facts and supporting their version of events.

"We know that dashcams are becoming popular and they can be a helpful tool when there is a collision. You're looking at that investigation and trying to determine who's at fault," said de Pruis, in a recent interview with The Weather Network.

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Dashcams can prove who is at fault

While there are some restrictions in the United States that prevent you from attaching a dashcam to your windshield, that's not the case in Canada, he noted.

What a dashcam does is record the information as you're driving for that "particular field" of view, de Pruis stated. Depending on the model, it may also record your speed and global positioning system (GPS) location.

"What it actually does is record the information that it sees. Why that's helpful is when you're involved in an accident," said de Pruis.

Dashcams/Getty Images-1045477080

(Getty Images-1045477080)

Sometimes determining liability or fault in an accident can be difficult, he explained.

"That video evidence will provide the facts to help outline exactly what that camera captured, to help determine liability. That's what the dashcam can do," said de Pruis.

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He noted some of the devices will also capture your speed. So, if you are pulled over and receive a ticket for running a red light or speeding, the dashcam can offer useful information to prove that you're innocent or, alternatively, guilty, if you did do it.

"There can be some benefits outside of a collision, just by making sure that any tickets you do receive, you're able to prove that you didn't actually do what was said," said de Pruis.

Other positives to dashcams are their easy configurations and file-sharing capabilities. The cameras have a type of internal storage device or a separate disk that may go into it to record information. Some cameras also come with an app that you can use to view and retrieve your footage.

"It could be as simple as taking the dashcam out and plugging it into your computer to retrieve that information, or taking note of the recording storage disk, inserting it into your computer and being able to view the actual video," de Pruis said.

Easy access will be useful when filing an accident claim with your insurance company and/or submitting it to the police as evidence.

"Videos can be saved as a particular file and that can be shared via email. Or, if your claims adjuster is meeting with you, you can show them the video," said de Pruis. "[Alternatively], you can provide a copy of that to the actual claims adjuster at their office, as well."

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Dashcams aren't perfect, either

On the flip side, what dashcams can’t do is prevent the frequency or severity of collisions.

Dashcam/Getty Images-1165279661

(Getty Images-1165279661)

“This device is simply a recording device when your vehicle is parked. So, non-collision incidents...think of the hail damage or wind damage to your vehicle. A dashcam would not be recording those types of incidents," said de Pruis.

Another con to using dashcams is that they can work both ways as evidence in a collision. Videos can be used against you to prove damages in an accident case.

As well, they can be distracting since they are typically mounted on the front windshield, de Pruis said.

And, most often, people will leave the devices in their vehicle, so they are prone to theft if they can be clearly seen. "Always park your vehicle in a secure spot so that you don't make it attractive to thieves. If you do leave your dash cam on your windshield, [that is]," said de Pruis.

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Dashcams can prevent fraud

They can also help prevent fraud, which can happen in a variety of different ways, he said, including what de Pruis refers to as a "potential staged collision." That involves a vehicle pulling closely in front of you, with the driver then quickly slamming on the brakes so that you rear-end it.

Another example is when you're stopped at a light and a pedestrian jumps onto your hood, subsequently, claiming you hit the person while they were walking, resulting in an attempted injury claim.

Dashcam footage/Getty Images-1309954745

(Getty Images-1309954745)

"This type of device would actually prove the situation and help to determine liability, and potentially reduce some of those incidents," said de Pruis.

While the insurance industry supports the use of dashcams, having one in your vehicle won’t offer a discount on your premiums. But, it can be useful indirectly, the IBC national director of consumer and industry relations noted.

"If you're involved in an accident and you can prove that you're not at fault, your premiums can be influenced by an at-fault claim. So, if you prove that you're not at fault, this will help your premiums over the long term," said de Pruis.

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Thumbnail courtesy of Getty Images-1518321828.

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