The meteor that exploded over Russia and injured more than 1,000 people Friday was astonishingly well-documented by amateur videographers, and many of the videos seem to have been captured from the dashboards of cars.
Why do so many Russians have dashboard-video cameras?
Answer: to prove who was at fault in car accidents.
Russia’s motorists are a different breed. The nation has one of the highest car-accident rates in the world, a fact Dmitry Medvedev, the former president and current prime minister, once blamed on the “undisciplined, criminally careless behavior of our drivers,” as well as poor road conditions.
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Hit-and-run crashes are common, as apparently are crafty, car-related hustles. Drivers of dented cars will back purposefully into other cars in an attempt to extort money from their owners. Pedestrians will throw themselves on car hoods at crosswalks and then lie on the asphalt, pretending to be injured.
Cutting off or otherwise offending a fellow motorist occasionally leads to full-on brawls in the road.
In court, dash-cam footage is the most reliable way to prove what really happened. According to a post on Jalopnik, a blog covering cars and car culture, titled Why Russians Are Obsessed With Dash-Cams: “Dash-cam footage is the only real way to substantiate your claims in the court of law. Forget witnesses. Two-way insurance coverage is very expensive and almost completely unavailable for vehicles over 10 years old — the drivers can only get basic liability. Get into a minor or major accident and expect the other party to lie to the police or better yet, flee after rear-ending you. Since your insurance won’t pay unless the offender is found and sued, you’ll see dash-cam videos of post hit-and-run pursuits for plate numbers.”
Dash-cam footage also aims to guard against bribery, brutality and intimidation by traffic police, which 32 percent of Russians called the most corrupt institution in the county.
Capturing the spectacle of a meteor is just a side effect of a typical Russian’s traffic-related due diligence.