Last year, a cousin of mine was involved in an accident with a lorry which was clearly the other driver’s fault. He was full of apologies and readily admitted his guilt.
However, when it came to the insurance claim, the driver completely changed his tune and blamed my relative for the crash.
It took a good year of wrangling – and the threat of a court case – before the other party caved in and owned up.
Now if my cousin had had one of these RoadScan devices fitted to her car, she could have saved herself a great deal of aggro by producing incontrovertible proof of what had occurred.
For RoadScan is a clever little camera which is fitted to the vehicle’s windscreen and switches itself on to record 20-second gobbets of action when it feels there is danger of a mishap.
The camera records continuously on a loop so will include a few seconds before the incident.
So when the makers offered us one to test, we jumped at the chance because here at Fleet Van, we are particularly keen on all matters relating to health and safety.
One of the problems with such hi-tech fangle-danglery is that most of the staff are old groaners like me who wish for nothing better than a return to the good old days when car radios had just two knobs (one for tuning and one for volume) and when you could drive from London to Leeds without a hold-up.
And as such we tend to get VERY confused by things like foot-thick electronics manuals and third millennium technospeak.
The makers of RoadScan will therefore be relieved to learn that fitting this device and making it work was simplicity itself – merely a case of sticking it in the windcsreen and downloading a programme on to the computer which allows you to watch what the camera has recorded.
A wire runs from the camera to the cigar lighter and has to be fed round the windscreen with a series of little hooks, which can look messy, but serious fleet buyers can get the cameras fitted properly without wires showing.
The camera is set to start rolling when it feels movement of more than 0.5G in any direction, which means that this device is more than just something to record accidents.
Fleet managers can in effect keep an eye on their drivers’ behaviour because any actions such as excessive cornering and banging over speed bumps will set it off.
Thus on Friday night when the info has been checked over, you, the fleet manager, can haul in recalcitrant drivers and give them a good dressing down.
Downloading can either be done by removing the camera from the van and plugging it into a PC or via a USB flash disk.
The fun bit for us was taking our van out and thrashing it about a bit (all, you understand, in test conditions – no risky driving for us).
At the first corner, I took it with gusto – and sure enough there was a bleep and my naughtiness was filmed for all to see
The camera came into its own when I had to brake sharply after filling up at the local garage – and on going on to the M25 from the A127 it worked in anger when a joker in a white Citroën Berlingo tried to cut me up from the inside, causing me to brake heavily.
When I got home, it was there to go over at my leisure – and all the pictures were good and clear too.
There are some drawbacks that I can see. For instance van drivers would have to remove the cameras from their vans when unattended or risk a local low-life nicking them.
And if you had, say, a fleet of 50 vans all fitted with cameras, it’s going to take a good long time to look at all the footage.
These problems apart, we were all left pretty impressed with this new piece of armoury in the fleet manager’s safety arsenal.
This device isn’t cheap – £445 ex-VAT to be precise although fleet discounts are available – and if it was purely a method of photographing accidents, we’d have to questions its worth.
But the ability to check up on bad driving habits will prove invaluable and better driving techniques – leading to lower fuel consumption – could mean that the RoadScan could well end up paying for itself in the long run