Unlike cassette adapters, fuzzy dice, and automatic seat belts, the car dashboard camera – or “dash cam” if you’re one of the cool kids – is no fad. As a matter of fad-ct, these little gizmos are some of the most useful car accessories I’ve come across in all my years behind the wheel. They can be installed in any vehicle. They are surprisingly affordable. They are incredibly simple to use. And the footage they film can help drivers win their insurance claims — or sometimes even put the kibosh on an insurance scam altogether.
Yeah, my love of dash cams is (now) well-documented. But are they illegal to use here in Kansas City? Here’s everything you should know before you go and buy a dashboard camera for your vehicle.
Surveillance & Data Collection Laws
Let me clear up any confusion right off the bat: no matter the state in which you reside, dash cams are very much legal—and very much recommended.
If you research “dashcam legality” on the internet, you may read that dashboard cameras are illegal to use in certain states (not Kansas or Missouri, mind you) because one cannot record the audio of another individual without their pre-approved consent. However, don’t believe everything you see on the internet.
In the privacy of your own vehicle and when driving on public American roadways, a mounted dashboard camera can film whatever it wants without limitation. If a crash occurs and a dash cam has the footage recorded, with or without audio, most law professionals agree that anything documented should be deemed admissible in a courtroom. If, however, you plan on filming your neighbor’s kitchen activities from your cul-de-sac, you might have a problem — in more ways than one.
Just stick to what dashcams are made to do, and you’ll be good.
Dash Cam Positioning
The proper installation of a video recording device is one of the only legal restrictions placed on dashboard cameras. Depending on your state, you may be prohibited from attaching your dash cam to your windshield, as this can obstruct your view and the views of other drivers.
This is the case in Kansas; statute 8-1741 states:
(a) No person shall drive any motor vehicle with any sign, poster or other nontransparent material upon the front windshield, side wings or side or rear windows of such vehicle which substantially obstructs, obscures or impairs the driver’s clear view of the highway or any intersecting highway.
The two key terms here are “nontransparent material” and “substantially obstructs” – dash cams may not be transparent, but are they able to substantially obstruct your view when suction-cupped on your windshield? Some would argue that they can. So, if you buy a dash cam and drive in Kansas, attach it to your dashboard—or ask your local law enforcement for advice.
However, Missouri has no such law to restrict the use of dashboard cameras or any other recording devices. Still, you should be cautious about placing your dash video camera in a location that won’t impede your view. If the dashboard recorder is small enough to fit behind the rearview mirror, that could be a safe place. Otherwise, try positioning it in the corner of the passenger-side windshield.
For a full list of states that allow or restrict vehicle CCTV cameras in windshields, click here.
Whether you’re a nervous Nellie on the road or simply like to cross all your Ts, dashboard cameras are just awesome. Until dash cams are standard in-vehicle features — fingers crossed! – you’ll have to buy and mount your own. You may never need it, but when you do, you’ll be glad to have an indisputable witness in your corner. Research the best dashboard camera devices here to get started, or simply leave me a comment below to start a dash-cam-chit-chat!