Washington THE WASHINGTON POST
The meteor that exploded over Russia and injured at least 1,200 people Friday was astonishingly well-documented by amateur videographers, and much of the footage seems to have been captured from car dashboards.
All of the available images raise the question: Why do so many Russians have dashboard video cameras?
Answer: To prove who was at fault in vehicular accidents.
Russia’s motorists are a different breed. The country has one of the highest car accident rates in the world, a fact that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev blames on the “undisciplined, criminally careless behavior of our drivers” — as well as poor road conditions.
Hit-and-run crashes are incredibly common, as apparently are crafty, car-related hustles. Drivers of already dented vehicles back purposefully into other cars in an attempt to extort money from their owners. Pedestrians 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 middle of the road.
In court, dashboard cameras are the most reliable way to prove what happened. A post on the Jalopnik weblog said: “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. . . . 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 will not pay unless the offender is found and sued, you’ll see dash-cam videos of post-hit-and-run pursuits for plate numbers.”
Such footage also aims to guard against bribery, brutality and intimidation by traffic police, which 32 percent of Russians call 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.