Are Dashcams Legal in Iowa and Should You Get One?

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Dash cam laws vary by state. In Iowa, as long as the driver can see clearly, dash cams are legal. That means the dash cam cannot be mounted onto the windshield, side wings, or side or rear windows, but can be on the dashboard. 

Used by law enforcement for decades, dash cam technology can be a great safety measure to get an inside peek into any driver’s actions and what takes place in and around their vehicle. 

For instance, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) Vehicle Enforcement shared a recent dashcam video of a commercial truck overturning as a reminder of the importance of load securement. The dash cam video captured the truck’s slick floors, slick steel, and no securement.

What else should drivers know about dash cams and how they affect cases in Iowa?

What Are Dash Cams?

These recording devices, or dashboard cameras, as the name implies, are normally mounted in front of a car’s dashboard to record video footage of anything happening inside or outside the vehicle. 

Because eyewitnesses are not always a trustworthy source in a case, dash cams and their wide-angle lenses serve as silent unbiased witnesses that record important events, such as car accidents, traffic stops, and road rage incidents. Some dash cam models even record when a vehicle is parked, capturing vandals, parking lot fender benders, or hit and runs. 

How do they work? Dash cams begin recording once the ignition starts with the cord plugged into either a cigarette lighter or USB port. Dashcams can also be hardwired into a vehicle’s electrical system.

Depending on the model and year, dash cam memory can be built in through a micro SD card or connected to cloud storage. The technology of these devices is always improving, with most detecting the impact of a car crash and featuring higher quality video quality, reduced glare, and clear definition.

How Can Dash Cams Benefit a Car Accident Case in Iowa?

There are so many ways dash cams can benefit drivers in Iowa involved in a car accident because these cameras see and record it all around them, which can be used as evidence in traffic incidents, such as when:

  • Another driver runs a red light and hits the driver
  • There are any sideswipes on the highway
  • There are lane changes without signaling
  • Another driver tailgates and runs into the driver’s bumper
  • Someone fails to yield

Other benefits of car dash cams is that they can:

  • Capture any crimes occurring nearby or outside the car, like a kidnapping within view of the car or keying or tire slashing of the dam cash owner’s car.
  • Record carjackings and robberies.
  • Extra safety features on some models, courtesy of the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), which can give lane departure and collision warnings.
  • Provide evidence of a staged accident that involves pedestrians, other drivers, and other passengers.
  • Save drivers money when footage can prove to their auto insurance companies they were not at fault. Some states even offer incentives, like reduced insurance rates for those with dash cams.
  • Reduce a “he said, she said” situation with law enforcement at any traffic stop.
  • Record any statements made in the vicinity of the camera, as many have microphones.

When Are Dash Cams Illegal in Iowa?

While no state or federal law completely outlaws car dash cams, they can be illegal if the owner is secretly recording video of people’s conversations without their knowledge. Drivers need to be sure to get passengers’ consent first before pushing record, disconnect the device, or have a sign that is clearly visible stating that a recording device is in use. 

If a dash cam records something that happens on private property, the footage will probably not be admissible either because of privacy issues. 

Is the Video Captured by a Dash Cam Legal and Admissible in Court?

If the footage is directly related to a driver’s car accident case, it is usually allowed in court for supporting or disproving evidence collected at the scene of the crash. 

Note: Drivers who are plaintiffs need to realize that dash cam footage can be used against them if the fault is not apparent, and the recorded video can be subpoenaed to contest the personal injury claim.

For example, one plaintiff sued a Tennessee-based trucking company for $150,000 in damages, claiming the defending truck driver had swerved out of his lane and into the side of the plaintiff’s car, causing the damage. But, because the trucking company had dash cams installed into each truck of its fleet before the accident, video that was captured clearly showed instead the plaintiff changing lanes and smacking directly into the front corner of the truck and the truck remaining in his lane, not causing the accident at all. 

Keep in mind, too, that state laws which are frequently updated and outline the legal placement of a dash cam need to be followed. This is also for a driver’s safety purposes. Footage retrieved from a dash cam that is found to obscure your view may not be legally admissible. 

Requirements for a dash cam placed in the middle or driver’s side of the windshield are:

  • The dash cam cannot block more than five square inches.
  • The dash cam cannot be installed in the zone of airbag deployment.

The passenger side of a windshield dash cam requirements include:

  • The dash cam cannot block more than seven square inches.
  • The dash cam cannot be installed in the zone of airbag deployment.

How Drivers Can Use Dash Cams for Their Car Accident Case

If a driver is involved in a car accident and owns a dash cam, they should share the footage with a personal injury attorney who can review the evidence and maximize the amount of damages and settlement. The attorney should receive the footage first in lieu of passing the footage onto any insurance company, law enforcement, or other parties, who are looking to maximize that driver’s liability.